Eco Friends organized a one-day workshop for the corporators and government officials of the local government (KNN) on March 22 at Massacre ghat, Kanpur. The workshop was intentionally organised on the banks of the river so that the participants themselves could see the pathos of Ganga in Kanpur. The objective of the workshop was to educate, aware and sensitise the officials of the local government about their duties and responsibilities towards making the Ganga pollution free.
We wrote letters to them, met them personally and made repeated phone calls. Even the City Commissioner wrote to them on our behalf to participate in the workshop. Despite our best efforts, we could mobilise only 40 corporators to participate in the workshop, though we had assurances from almost all the corporators (there’re 110 elected and 10 nominated). Besides corporators, we’d Mr. V. K. Shukla from Central Pollution Control Board, Dr. Binayak Rath from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Ms. Suchitra Singh, President of Rotary Club of Kanpur Greater, and Mr. S. P. Mishra, City Commissioner, Kanpur and other eminent citizens in the workshop. Representatives from State Pollution Control Board, Ganga Pollution Control Unit, UP Jal Nigam (GAP Executing agency), and Project Planning and Coordination Unit (GAP Monitoring agency) did not turn up at the workshop. Kanpur Mayor Anil Sharma inaugurated the workshop.
40 corporators including 7 women corporators of different political parties and others attending the workshop were shocked to learn that approximately Rs.150 crore had been spent to make Ganga pollution free in Kanpur alone. They did not have much idea about the Ganga Action Plan and the works carried out under GAP.
Mayor Anil Sharma was happy that the workshop was organised on the banks of the river. He appreciated the efforts of Eco Friends to raise the issue of Ganga pollution through various forums. Mr. Sharma explained the problems of Ganga pollution and suggested measures to overcome these problems. He emphasized on the role of students in spreading awareness amongst the people, especially their parents. He said that more and more programs should be organised to educate, aware and sensitise students towards environmental issues. He suggested that students from different schools should be called from time to time to various ghats, especially during religious occasions to make the people aware about the condition of Ganga. This will have a psychological effect, he added. He also said that common man will have to come forward to discuss and improve the condition of the Ganga or soon a day will come when there will be no Ganga and no drinking water. He also spoke about the polluting social practices like dumping of dead bodies and worship materials in the river.
Rakesh K. Jaiswal, Executive Secretary of Eco Friends informed the members that the aquatic life in the river had nearly gone dead as the river water was almost devoid of the dissolved oxygen content in the Kanpur stretch. The river was spreading various kinds of diseases and it was not safe to take a dip in it. He also added that the minimum flow in the river was not being maintained which had resulted into a decreased potential of the river to dilute the pollutants and depleted quantity of the raw water available for Kanpur.
Mr. Jaiswal made the corporators aware of the purpose of the workshop and informed the corporators about their rights and duties which had been conferred on them by the 74th Constitution Amendment. He explained the status of Ganga and GAP at Kanpur and how GAP had failed miserably in its objectives. He said, “GAP is neither Ganga friendly nor peoples’ friendly”. He appealed to the Mayor and corporators to raise the issue of the minimum flow with the State and Central government.
Mr P N Rai, corporator of ward 40 and Ex. Deputy Mayor said, “we are mainly responsible for the pollution of Ganga and therefore, it is our responsibility to make Ganga pollution free. The pollution of Ganga is nothing but the pollution of mind”. He said that Ganga should be cleaned on monthly basis. He also lamented the fact that corruption was rife in the government machinery as a result of which most schemes were falling flat.
Kamal Shukla Baby, corporator of ward 25, believes that unless government takes strict action against the polluters, Ganga cannot be cleaned. He added that anyone found to be polluting Ganga by floating dead bodies, worship material etc should be penalized. He said that it was useless to think that Kanpur Nagar Nigam could help in any way to clean the Ganga as it was unable to pay even salaries to its employees. He promised to help Eco Friends in its efforts to stop the practice of dead body dumping into Ganga. He suggested that the unclaimed bodies should be taken directly to electric crematoria and each corporator should pay Rs 21,000 from his/her fund towards this. He also promised to raise the issue of Ganga pollution in the meetings of KNN. He said that the corporators would try to get the resolution passed by KNN that every month on a particular date KNN sweepers would clean the entire stretch of Ganga in Kanpur.
Corporator Manju Shukla of ward 14 blamed tanneries for the Ganga pollution in Kanpur. She demanded strict action against tanneries, which were not treating their waste properly. She also blamed Pollution Control Board for being lenient towards the tanneries.
Sudha Singh of Ward No 30 stated that Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was eyewash in which millions of rupees had gone down the drain. "The people are responsible for the rampant corruption and the filthy Ganga. She was of the opinion that if people raised their voice against the corruption, things could change. She demanded that the GAP corruption should be made public.
Sushma Awasthi of ward 83 commented sarcastically on the government slogans of India shining and feel good, “Ganga is feeling bad and not shining at all”.
V K Shukla, Scientist, CPCB informed the participants about the sources, and types of pollution in Ganga and their impacts on the river ecology and peoples’ health. He cleared the doubt of some corporators about the upstream pollution in Ganga. Paper and pulp industry, sugar factories and distilleries in the upstream sometimes release their effluent in the river which leads to change in colour of the Ganga waters. He informed that CPCB was regularly monitoring the quality of Ganga water and also the colour change. He added that the coloured water of the Ganga was not harmful for the human health. Mr. Shukla commented that Kanpur Nagar Nigam had never agitated or protested against the pollution of river Ganga. He also complained about the inefficiency of KNN in regard with solid waste management in Kanpur. He said that KNN had failed to lift even 50 % of the waste generated in Kanpur and that was the reason why Kanpur streets remained dirty most of the time. At the end he said, “Ganga is our most precious heritage and we should not loose it at any cost, Lets wake up to the cause”.
Dr Binayak Rath from IIT and a member of Citizens’ Monitoring Committee talked about the quantity of water in Ganga. He demanded that the river diversion issues should be discussed and the minimum flow must be maintained in the river.
The workshop ended on a positive note that Ganga could be cleaned if honest and sincere efforts would be made. The participants agreed to raise and discuss the issue of Ganga pollution in the assembly and regularly monitor the status of Ganga and Ganga Action Plan. After the discussion the corporators along with the Mayor took a boat ride to inspect the status of Ganga. The workshop concluded with the distribution of mementoes and Ganga Aarti.