(Sep. 11, 2004)


  Environmental Engineering and Management Programme, Department of Civil Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur , KANPUR 208016, INDIA

In India, the implementation of river cleaning operations through ‘River Action Plans' (RAPs) conventionally focus on a reduction in concentrated or ‘point' sources of organic loading to the river, and is assessed by monitoring the consequent improvement in river water quality. However, in case of Indian rivers or river stretches having substantial background pollution due to distributed or ‘non-point' loading of organic matter and nutrients, elimination of point sources of pollution may not substantially impact or improve river water quality. It is suggested that implementation of ‘River Action Plans' (RAPs) in India under such circumstances must be conducted using a multi-tier approach. The initial emphasis in such cases should be on the selection of priority stretches of the river, where pollution control will have maximum beneficial impact on the citizens, and interception and diversion of all concentrated or point loads of pollution from these stretches. In addition, measures to minimize non-point pollution and visible pollution to the river and initiation of riverfront restoration and development projects are necessary in these priority stretches. Such measures would result in aesthetic improvements, increase the beneficial uses of the river and its surroundings, and generate favorable public perception towards RAPs, though they may not be sufficient to enhance the river water quality to the desired levels. However, as a result of the above actions, public support for funding more expensive and longer-term river cleaning schemes, resulting in comprehensive reduction in organic and nutrient loading to the river from point and non-point sources all along its length, may be generated. The need for this alternative methodology for implementation and assessment of RAPs in India has been illustrated by taking the example of ‘Ganga Action Plan' (GAP) and assessment of its implementation near the city of Kanpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, as a test case.

Keywords: River Pollution, Nutrient Loading, Organic Loading, Eutrophication, Dissolved Oxygen, Pollution Assessment

Introduction: ‘ Ganga Action Plan'

Ganga is a perennial river which originates as a stream called “Bhagirathi” from Gaumukh in the Gangotri glacier at 30 ° 55' N, 79 ° 7' E, some 4100m above mean sea level. Ganga river basin is the largest among river basins in India , measuring 861,404 km 2 (CPCB 1982-83). The river Ganga (see Figure 1a) passes through four Indian states, namely Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar and West Bengal . It has a total length of 2525 km, out of which 1425 km is in Uttaranchal and UP, 475 km is in Bihar and 625 km is in West Bengal . The Ganga basin includes whole or parts of eight Indian states, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar , West Bengal , Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi , containing approximately 37 percent of the country's population, or 370 million people (MoEF 1998-99).

a). Map of India Showing River Ganga

                        (b) "Kannauj - Kanpur" Stretch                                    (c) 'Priority' Stretch Near Kanpur

1: Kannauj u/s (Fatehgarh);        2: On River Ganga at Kannauj;

3: On River Kali at Kannauj;        4: Kannauj d/s (after confluence of Ramganga and Kali);

5: Kanpur u/s at Bithoor;            6: Kanpur : Shuklaganj;                      7: Kanpur d/s at Jajmau/Jane

Figure 1. Map of the river Ganga showing the Kannauj-Kanpur stretch and the sampling points for water quality determination

River Ganga is often described as the cradle of Indian Civilization. Historically, it has also been the recipient of huge amounts of pollution, with major industrial centers and big cities located along the river, such as, Kanpur (pop. 2.3 million), Kolkata (pop. 12.0 million), Patna (pop. 1.2 million), Allahabad (pop. 1.1 million), Varanasi (pop. 1.2 million), etc., discharging their industrial and domestic pollutants directly into the river without treatment. This, combined with a lack of dilution due to extraction of large amounts of water for irrigation purposes (about 47 percent of the country's irrigated land is in the Ganga basin), results in severe pollution of the river. The situation is intolerable, primarily because it is a common practice for Indians to bathe in the ‘holy' waters of Ganga . In addition, large numbers of people living along the river use Ganga water for drinking and other household purposes. Livelihoods of many people (e.g., fishermen) are also linked with the condition of the river.

Considering the above points, in 1980, Department of Environment of the Indian Government asked the Central Board for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, New Delhi, (now known as Central Pollution Control Board) to conduct an extensive survey to determine the extent of pollution in the river Ganga. On the basis of this survey (CPCB 1982-83), an action plan, called ‘Ganga Action Plan' (GAP) was prepared in 1985 for cleaning the river.

The original stated objective of GAP was to restore the entire river Ganga to the ‘Class B' or ‘Bathing Class', the definition of ‘Bathing Class' being river water quality better than that shown in Table 1. This was to be achieved by identifying major sources of wastewater and other discharge into the river, and constructing interception / diversion / treatment (IDT) works to mitigate pollution from these sources. To accomplish the task, 261 schemes for pollution abatement were sanctioned under GAP, phase I at various locations along the river. These included 88-sewage interception and diversion, 35-sewage treatment, 43-low cost toilets, 28-electric crematoria, 35-riverfront development and another 32 schemes of miscellaneous category (NRCD 1999b).

Table 1. Bathing class water quality for inland surface waters in India

(NRCD, 1999b)

Class B

Outdoor Bathing (Organized)

pH: 6.5 – 8.5
DO: 5 mg/L or more
BOD 5 : 3 mg/L or Less
Total Coliform: 10,000 MPN/100 mL or Less
Fecal Coliform: 2500 MPN/100 mL or Less

A comprehensive evaluation of GAP, phase I by independent agencies was undertaken in April 1995 (MoEF 1997-98). The evaluation report (NRCD 1999a) concluded that reduction of discharge of organic pollution, a necessary first step for restoring the river water quality has been achieved to a fair level under GAP, phase I. The status paper (NRCD 1999a) also reports that the water quality of Ganga has shown improvement, on the basis of 1986 and 1998 summer average water quality, over the pre-GAP period in terms of both the BOD and DO, the two important parameters used to assess river water quality. However, the water was still unfit for bathing, primarily due to unsatisfactory bacteriological quality. Based on the above evaluation, the objectives of second phase of Ganga river-cleaning operations, i.e., GAP, phase II were recast (MoEF 1998-99). Ten stretches of the river were identified for receiving priority attention in cleaning up operations to achieve ‘Bathing Class' standard. All these stretches were near holy places, i.e., places where large number of pilgrims bathed in the river. GAP phase II is currently under implementation at various places along the Ganga River .

As per revised objectives of GAP, phase II described above, a stretch of river Ganga near Kanpur, from ‘Brahmavarta' to ‘Sidhnath' (see Figure 1c) was chosen as a priority stretch, which is to be restored to ‘bathing class' standards on a priority basis. The main source of pollution in this stretch of the river is the wastewater generated in Kanpur , a city of approximately 2.3 million people situated in central India , in the state of Uttar Pradesh (CPCB 1997). Like all cities on the banks of Ganga , Kanpur is largely dependent on this river for both drinking water supply, and as a receptacle for the wastes generated in the city. Partial interception, diversion and treatment of wastewater generated in this city was achieved during GAP phase I. Projects during GAP phase II envisage complete interception and treatment of all wastewater generated in this city.

Scope and Objectives

The present study focuses on the ‘priority' stretch of Ganga River described above, with the main objectives being,

•  Critical evaluation of the improvements in river water quality if any, due to intervention measures undertaken during GAP, phase I.

•  Examination of the adequacy of proposed measures to be undertaken during GAP, phase II in achieving the stated objective of restoring the water quality in the river stretch under study to ‘bathing class', and

•  Based on the above evaluations, identifying the inadequacies in the intervention plan proposed in Kanpur under ‘GAP' phase I and II.

Analysis as described above will lead to realization of the ultimate objective of this paper, which is to enunciate a modified approach towards implementation and assessment of the completed, ongoing and future phases of GAP and other similar RAPs in India .

GAP Implementation in Kanpur

Kanpur is a north Indian city located in the central region of the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated on the southern bank of river Ganga , at a distance of 425 km from National Capital Delhi in the west, 76 km from state capital Lucknow in the north and 1000 km from Kolkata in east (CPCB 1997). At present, Kanpur is the largest industrial and commercial city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The city is spread in an area of 299 sq. km. It is the second largest metropolitan city in north India after New Delhi (CPCB 1997).

 Status of Wastewater Disposal

Historically, the wastewater generated in the city district of Kanpur was conveyed to the eastern outskirts of the city through a trunk sewer laid approximately parallel to Ganga River , and used for sewage-fed agriculture (see Figure 2). The capacity of this trunk sewer was 160 million liters per day (MLD). Over time, partial choking of the trunk sewer resulted in its capacity being reduced to 50 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 12500 kg/d, TKN ~ 937 Kg/d)) in 1985 (UPJN 1984-85). At the same time, wastewater generation in the city district had increased to 183 MLD in 1985. Thus, 133 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 33,250 Kg/d, TKN ~ 2492 Kg/d) of wastewater generated in the city district in 1985 was being diverted to storm sewers and open drains. These drains carried the wastewater to the Shuklaganj drain, which emptied into Ganga River (see Figure 2).

 Figure 2. Schematic of wastewater disposal plan in Kanpur City (adapted from Gupta 2000)

Rehabilitation of the trunk sewer as a part of GAP, phase I (1986-1993), resulted in enhancement of its capacity to 158 MLD. Consequently, partial diversion (see Figure 2) of wastewater flowing into Ganga through storm sewers was possible through construction of wastewater pumping stations to divert wastewater flow from the storm sewers to the rehabilitated trunk sewer (UPJN 1996-97). As a result by 1993, flow in the trunk sewer increased to 106 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 26500 Kg/d, TKN ~ 1986 Kg/d), while the total wastewater generation in the city district was 205 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 51250 Kg/d, TKN ~ 3842 Kg/d). Thus, even after completion of GAP, phase I, 99 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 24750 Kg/d, TKN ~ 1855 Kg/d) of wastewater was still flowing into Ganga through storm sewers and open drains. Also, as a part of GAP, phase I, a 36 MLD anaerobic wastewater treatment plant based on upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) technology, and a 130 MLD activated sludge plant (ASP) were constructed in the eastern outskirts of the city. Wastewater being transported by the trunk sewer, and about 9 MLD of industrial effluent generated by tanneries situated in Jajmau, in the eastern outskirts is treated in these installations. The treated wastewater from these units is discharged to a sewage channel and partially used for sewage fed agriculture (UPJN 1996-97). The remaining discharge ultimately flows into Ganga River just downstream of the priority stretch in Kanpur .

By 2000, the total wastewater generation in the city, and wastewater flow in the trunk sewer were 250 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 62500 Kg/d, TKN ~ 4685 Kg/d) and 120 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 30,000 Kg/d, TKN ~ 2249 Kg/d) respectively. The increased generation of wastewater was attributed to increase in population and in per capita water supply. Also, future scenario analyses indicate that by 2020, total wastewater generation in the city is expected to be 348 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 87000 Kg/d, TKN ~ 6522 Kg/d), of which 150 MLD (BOD 5 ~ 37500 Kg/d, TKN ~ 2811 Kg/d) will be accommodated in the existing trunk sewer (UPJN 1999).

GAP I was completed in 1993, and GAP, phase II formulated subsequently. GAP, phase II works in Kanpur sought to complete the unfinished job of GAP I, i.e., interception, diversion and treatment of the remaining raw wastewater flowing to Ganga . Accordingly, plans were made for the construction of a second trunk sewer of 200 MLD capacity, which is sufficient to handle excess wastewater that is to be generated by year 2020. The second trunk sewer will divert wastewater generated in the city (see Figure 2) to the southern outskirts of the city by pumping (UPJN 1996-97). The diverted wastewater will be treated using UASB technology, before being released for sewage-fed agriculture and disposal in a local rivulet in the southern outskirts. GAP II is currently partially implemented and under review.

Review of Ganga Water Quality

This review is based on examination of Ganga water quality in the city of Kanpur (MoEF 1997-98; Tare 1997; Tare 1998; Tare 1999, 2001; NRCD 1999a; Anand and Agarwal 2000; Tare 2001). Only dry weather (November – June) water quality data, obtained once each month is considered for this purpose. The river flow was 200 + 100 m 3 /s during collection of this data. The monthly data have been grouped into four sets, roughly corresponding to the pre GAP I period (1988-91), post GAP I period (1992-96), preliminary GAP Phase II period (1997-99), and the most recent data (2001) available. The comparison of average BOD 5 and DO concentration in river Ganga upstream (point 4, Figure 1b) and downstream (point 7, Figure 1b) of Kanpur for various time periods is shown in Figure 3. These points are such that no organic loading from the Kanpur city is released into the river before the upstream sampling point, and all organic loading from city of Kanpur (including the sewage channel) is released into the river before the downstream sampling point. The data corresponding to these sampling points clearly suggest that for all time periods, the BOD 5 concentration in the river downstream of Kanpur was greater than the value upstream of Kanpur . This is obviously due to the addition of large quantities of organic matter in the form of wastewater generated in the city. Implementation of GAP I by 1993, which involved partial diversion of raw wastewater from the river, resulted in no reduction in BOD 5 concentrations downstream of Kanpur in 1993-96 time period. In fact, in recent years, the downstream BOD concentration has started rising again due to increased generation of wastewater in the city. However, examination of the corresponding DO values suggest that interventions of GAP, phase I did not have a major effect on this parameter. In fact, data in Figure 3 indicate that the dissolved oxygen concentration in the river was always above 5 mg/L, even when the corresponding BOD 5 values were 20 mg/L or higher.

Figure 3. Dry Months (November to June) Average Dissolved Oxygen (DO) and 5 day Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD 5 ) Concentration in River Ganga, Upstream (Point 4, Figure 1b) and Downstream (Point 7, Figure 1b) of Kanpur for Various Time Periods. (Based on Data Given in: MoEF 1997-98; Tare 1997; Tare 1998; Tare 1999; NRCD 1999b; Anand and Agarwal 2000; Tare 2001). Values in parenthesis above each pair of bar charts indicate the number of data points used to determine the average value and the standard deviation for those bar charts.

Examination of dissolved Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN) values for various time periods presented in Figure 4, show that the TKN values are quite high upstream of Kanpur. Nitrogen loading to the river upstream of Kanpur seems to be non-point or distributed in nature. Such a situation is not inconceivable, considering intensive agricultural activities and presence of agro-based industries in the region, which add nutrients to the water. Addition of a large amount of nitrogen as a component of the organic loading to the river in Kanpur results in increase in dissolved TKN levels downstream of Kanpur (see Figure 4). Phosphorus data presented in Figure 4 also indicates values that are moderately high. Based on these results and the fact that the river depth in dry season is as low as 1 m in most of the cross-section, it can be concluded that the river in Kanpur showed substantial autotrophic activity, despite low light penetration due to high turbidity of the water. Such a situation will explain the elevated levels of dissolved oxygen witnessed in this stretch of the river despite high organic loading. Photosynthetic activity in this stretch of Ganga River has been investigated thoroughly and reported elsewhere (Tare et al. 2003). As a part of that study, oxygen production in the river due to photosynthetic activity, and oxygen consumption due to microbial respiration was measured at three locations in this stretch of the river. Results presented in Figure 5 indicate that at three locations (corresponding to sampling points 5 and 6 in Figure 1b and another point in between), oxygen production in the river due to photosynthetic activity was much larger than oxygen consumption due to microbial respiration in the winter months, when the photosynthetic activity is expected to be the lowest. These results go a long way in explaining the high dissolved oxygen values observed in the river (Figure 3).

Examination of both total and fecal coliform levels in the river indicates (see Figure 6) that these values are very high, even upstream of Kanpur . Such results are again not inconceivable, considering that the river flows through a densely populated region, and is used for bathing, washing of farm animals and as the receptacle for both human and animal wastes generated in numerous villages along its banks. All these activities add considerable amount of coliform organisms to water. However, the upstream coliform levels however, have showed steady decline over the recent years, though the corresponding downstream values remain high.

Figure 4. Dry Months (November to June) Average Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN), and Total Phosphorus Concentrations in Ganga, Upstream (Point 4, Figure 1b) and Downstream (Point 7, Figure 1b) of Kanpur for Various Time Periods.(Based on Data given in: MoEF 1997-98; Tare 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001; NRCD 1999a; Anand and Agarwal 2000).Values in parenthesis above each pair of bar charts indicate the number of data points used to determine the average value and the standard deviation for those bar charts.

Critical Evaluation of GAP Implementation

Analysis of the impact of GAP-I schemes on river water quality in Kanpur shows clearly that these schemes were unable to restore the water to ‘Class B' or ‘Bathing Class' standards. National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) claims that this is due to the incomplete nature of GAP I, and further intervention measures in the form of GAP II will result in achievement of the objectives regarding water quality, at least in the ten priority stretches mentioned earlier. This contention, as far as the priority river stretch near Kanpur is concerned, can however be disputed logically as follows. The most recent average Ganga water quality upstream of Kanpur (see Figure 3 and 6) showed BOD, and total coliform levels higher than the ‘Bathing Class' standard (see Table 1).

Bithoor: At the start of the 'priority stretch' near Kanpur
Baironghat: In the 'priority stretch', near drinking water intake point for Kanpur city
Shuklaganj: In the 'prioirty stretch' near the discharge point for untreated wastewater from Kanpur city.

Figure 5. Estimation of Oxygen Production Due to Photosynthesis and Oxygen Consumption due to Respiration at Various Locations (Adapted from Tare et al., 2003)

Pollution upstream of Kanpur is primarily due to distributed or ‘non-point' loading introduced into the river through intensive agricultural activities and the direct dependence on the river of both human beings and animals in numerous villages and small towns with no waste treatment facility (Agarwal, 1996). Non-point pollution is notoriously hard to prevent and there is currently no nationwide plan for prevention of such pollution in the river Ganga . Hence, the water quality upstream of Kanpur is unlikely to improve in the near future. Thus, the planned intervention in Kanpur during GAP Phase II is unlikely to restore the water quality in the river in or immediately downstream of Kanpur to ‘Bathing Class' standard.

Public Perception

National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD), the central government agency responsible for sanctioning and financing projects under GAP has mandated the constitution of a ‘citizens' monitoring group' for reviewing the implementation of schemes sanctioned under GAP in Kanpur. In addition, several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) specializing in GAP related activities are active in Kanpur area. Also, certain local Hindi and English newspapers have taken active interest in issues related to GAP. Active participation of these agencies has resulted in crystallizing and shaping public opinion regarding GAP implementation in Kanpur and related issues.

Figure 6. Dry Months (November to June) Average Total Coliform (TC) and Fecal Coliform (FC) in Ganga , Upstream (Point 4, Figure 1b) and Downstream (Point 7, Figure 1b) of Kanpur for Various Time Periods. (Based on Data given in: MoEF 1997-98; Tare 1997; Tare 1998; Tare 1999; NRCD 1999b; Anand and Agarwal 2000; Tare 2001). Values in parenthesis above each pair of bar charts indicate the number of data points used to determine the average value and the standard deviation for those bar charts.

Public perception of GAP is generally more negative (Agarwal, 2000, Banerji, 2002) than that presented in Government Reports. Main complaints are the lack of any visual improvement in river surroundings or water quality, continued discharge of raw sewage into the river, albeit at a lower rate than before, non-performance and malfunctioning of the sewage interception / diversion / treatment (IDT) infrastructure created under GAP, etc. In addition, even after implementation of various GAP schemes, the river is still unfit for bathing and other beneficial uses, primarily due to aesthetically unpleasant surroundings and unsatisfactory bacteriological quality of the water.

Based on close examination of public reaction to GAP implementation in Kanpur , a clear dichotomy of views between public and institutional perceptions towards river cleaning operations is observed. While the institutional viewpoint stresses the successful completion of some IDT schemes and consequent improvement in certain water quality parameters, the public perception of such schemes is ambivalent at best. Public opinion (PIB, 2000) continually points to the lack of visible improvement in water quality, and dirty appearance of the riverfront. In other words, no increase in beneficial uses of the river is perceived by the public, in spite of expenditure of large amounts of resources for GAP implementation.

Financial Sustainability

It is also generally recognized that the funding pattern of GAP has become unsustainable (PIB, 2000). Resources required for the IDT and other schemes at various cities along the river have been provided by the Indian Central Government, with the understanding that the State/Local authorities will provide funds for operation and maintenance of the facilities. However, since the benefits from the river cleaning action are not very apparent, and beneficial uses of the river have not increased due to the GAP, local authorities are politically unable or unwilling to allocate resources to maintain, operate and expand the infrastructure created for river-cleaning operations.

Need for a Modified Approach

At the outset, it must be realized that the high BOD and high total and fecal coliform concentrations in Ganga River upstream of Kanpur renders the water quality well below the ‘Bathing Class' standard. Thus, even the complete implementation of GAP, phase II as envisaged presently, is unlikely to improve water quality of Ganga to ‘Bathing Class' standard in the priority stretch of the river near Kanpur . Hence, any post-implementation assessment of GAP, phase II in Kanpur , in terms of improvement in water quality to ‘Bathing Class' is likely to indicate failure of GAP. In addition, the difference between public and institutional perceptions of GAP highlighted earlier will ensure that public appreciation of GAP projects will remain low.

Above discussion suggests that a different approach is necessary for future implementation and assessment of GAP and other similar river-cleaning projects in India . Further, to gain widespread public support and goodwill, the short-term objectives and criteria for project implementation may have to be recast considering the public perception of clean river, and consequently the water quality and other criteria for assessing impact may have to be redefined.

Under the circumstances, a modified plan of action with more emphasis towards redressing of public concerns regarding GAP implementation seem appropriate to ensure that such projects are self-perpetuating and sustainable. Such a strategy should incorporate main concerns of the affected population into the institutional decision-making process. This will ensure a more comprehensive attainment of the objectives of GAP, both from public perception and water quality considerations.

Salient Features of the Modified Approach

The ultimate objective of any RAP is to improve the water quality of the river to better than some pre-decided threshold. However, implementation of RAPs in India is always hampered by resource constraints and uncertainty in receiving continued funding, and hence can only be undertaken in phases. It is suggested that any strategy for implementation of such schemes in India should stress on the proper phasing of various components of the plan. Further, the objective of the initial phases may not necessarily be the same as the ultimate objective of the entire plan. Proper phasing is necessary to ensure the benefits of the initial phases of river cleaning operations are plainly perceptible, and appreciated by the public. This public goodwill can be leveraged to mobilize political support and continued allocation of funds required for implementation of longer-term measures for gradual improvement of river water quality, and comprehensive attainment of the overall objectives of the RAP. Accordingly, the proposed approach suggested below requires the adoption of a multi-tier strategy for implementation of RAPs in India .

Suggested Initial Measures

The initial measures in this regard are as follows. First, selection of ‘priority' river stretches where intervention measures will impact largest number of people. Second, initiation of intervention measures in the ‘priority' stretches, involving interception and diversion of point and non-point pollution loads, elimination of visible pollution and riverfront development. Proper implementation of above measures is expected to generate public appreciation and widespread support for the RAP, though improvement of river water quality to desired level, which is the ultimate objective of RAP, may not be possible at this stage.

Selection of ‘priority' river stretches

Constraints of various kinds necessitate prioritizing various actions to be undertaken under RAPs. To ensure the benefits accruing from such a plan is apparent to large numbers of people within a relatively short period of time, stretches of the river near large cities or holy places, and hence very polluted, need to be designated as ‘priority' stretches for immediate river cleaning operations.

Interception and diversion of point loads

One of the most visible sign of river pollution in India is the discharge of large quantities of raw sewage into the river. Consequently, one of the best ways of demonstration of the beneficial effects of implementation of RAPs is through interception and diversion of such discharges.

Prevention of non-point pollution

Prevention of pollution from non-point sources in the ‘priority' stretch under consideration must be given due importance. Arrangement for intercepting small wastewater channels and diverting their flow to existing sewers in the area is an option that may be considered. Alternatively, the construction of an intercepting sewer along the riverbank to collect the discharge in the minor channels can also be useful.

Prevention of other visible pollution

Appropriate emphasis should be put on tackling matters related to visible pollution, and thus reclaim the riverbank for development. Measures undertaken in this regard may include removal of illegal slums, cattle sheds, garbage dumps and other associated structures from Government land on the riverbank and provision of low-cost toilet facilities for people using the riverbank for public defecation. Involvement of NGOs for this purpose is considered essential for mobilizing public opinion and for ensuring that the reclaimed land is not encroached upon or misused in future.

Riverfront development

Removal of encroachment from government land on the riverbank will result in freeing of this prime real estate for development. Such development may take the form of public parks, walkways, and other income generating recreation facilities, which may be funded by local government or private sources. Restoration of existing structures of importance on the riverbank like archaeological sites, temples, etc. may also be desirable.

Public awareness and NGO participation

According to the suggested approach, public support and cooperation is essential for proper implementation of the initial phase GAP and other similar plans. For the successful implementation and sustainability of projects, it is essential that public expectations from its implementation be adequately fulfilled. This can only be achieved by ensuring public and NGO participation in planning, implementation and maintenance of schemes.

Assessment of initial measures

The success of the initial measures mentioned above could be assessed by absence of any visible pollution on riverbank and complete elimination of wastewater discharges from point and non-point sources after implementation of the required schemes in the ‘priority' stretches under consideration. Aesthetic improvements related to elimination of visible pollution and riverfront development works, which are easily perceivable by the public, are also an important marker for assessment of the initial measures. In addition, public and NGO participation in implementation of these schemes must be extensive. It must be emphasized that the initial measures described above are not designed to improve the river water quality in the ‘priority' or any other stretch of the river to the desired levels. Hence, absence of significant improvements in river water quality after implementation of the initial measures should not be construed as a failure of the initial measures or of the RAP as a whole.

In conclusion, the main objectives of the initial measures are to undertake interventions, with extensive public and NGO participation to bring about a visible improvement in the condition of river and its surroundings. This will generate public goodwill, which will enable local authorities to justify allocating funds to maintain and improve the created infrastructure, thus ensuring sustainability. Furthermore, it is expected that success of these initial measures will generate popular and political support and hence funding for long-term strategies for realization of the ultimate objective of RAPs, i.e., improvement of river water quality to desired levels.

Longer-term measures

Suggested longer-term measures involve creation of infrastructure for comprehensive treatment of point and non-point loads of pollution intercepted and diverted from the ‘priority' stretches of the river described earlier, and increasing the number of designated ‘priority' stretches in a phase-wise manner.

Creation of wastewater treatment infrastructure

As per the suggested modified approach, point and non-point sources of wastewater only needs to be intercepted and diverted as a part of initial measures, such that it is not discharged into the river in the ‘priority' stretch. It is conceivable that this diverted wastewater will be released in surface drains, which may ultimately join the same river downstream of the ‘priority' stretch under consideration. An integral part of the suggested longer-term measures is the creation of treatment infrastructure for intercepted and diverted flow as mentioned above.

The treatment to be provided needs to be comprehensive and must include facilities for nutrient removal and total/fecal coliform reduction in addition to BOD removal, before release of wastewater into natural water bodies. It is recommended that aerobic treatment processes like activated sludge (ASP) incorporating extended aeration for nutrient removal be adopted for this purpose. The above point is emphasized because the current trend in India is to adopt anaerobic treatment processes like UASB for domestic wastewater treatment, purely based on cost considerations. Such a course of action, though apparently beneficial in the short-term, result in inferior BOD/COD, nutrient and coliform removal as compared to ASP and hence may not be in agreement with the long-term objectives of RAPs as stated earlier.

Designation of new ‘priority' stretches

Another suggested longer-term measure is to increase the number of ‘priority' stretches in a phase-wise manner. In each of these newly designated ‘priority' stretches, initial measures resulting in wastewater diversion, removal of visible pollution and riverfront development, followed by longer-term measures for development of wastewater treatment infrastructure must be implemented.

Assessment of longer-term measures

Gradual creation of wastewater treatment infrastructure in various river stretches will result in progressive reduction of both point and non-point organic matter and nutrient loading to the entire river. This will result in gradual improvement in river water quality and hence lead to the attainment of the ultimate objectives of the RAP.

Summary and Conclusions

Most major Indian rivers flow through areas of large population densities and intensive agricultural activities. The non-point loading of both organic pollutants and nutrients to such rivers throughout its entire stretch is often comparable, if not larger than point loading of pollution from industrial sources or large population centers. Under these circumstances, any RAP which focuses primarily on the removal of point loads of pollution, and is assessed through consequent improvement in water quality is likely to show unsatisfactory results, and hence will be unable to fulfill the public expectations from such schemes. A modified plan of action for implementation of RAPs in such circumstances has been presented in this paper.

Based on the description of this modified approach, certain changes in phasing and implementation of intervention schemes for ongoing and future RAPs in India are suggested. The measures undertaken under GAP at Kanpur are taken as indicative of the current approach in this regard, and are compared and contrasted with the suggested modified approach to demonstrate the superiority of the latter.

•  Designation of ‘priority' river stretches for initial interventions as suggested in the modified approach is similar to that being already adopted under GAP.

•  Measures taken under GAP phase I and proposed under GAP phase II in the ‘priority' stretch near Kanpur will result in complete elimination of discharge of wastewater from major point sources in this stretch to the river. This will be accompanied by creation of treatment infrastructure for the diverted wastewater. Interception and diversion of point loads of wastewater in this manner is also the suggested course of action under the modified approach. However, as per the modified approach, it is suggested that treatment of the wastewater diverted from the river is not a priority in the initial stages, and the funds thus saved can be used more profitably elsewhere. The reason for de-emphasizing treatment in the initial stages is the realization that treatment of point sources of pollution in itself may not enhance the river water quality significantly, and may not enhance public appreciation for RAP schemes.

•  In the modified approach, it is suggested that the money saved by postponing the creation of treatment infrastructure may be used instead for eliminating non-point pollution, visible pollution and riverfront development works. Little emphasis is put on these aspects under the current approach of implementing GAP in Kanpur , though need for such measures are great. For example, approximately 30 percent houses in the city of Kanpur are not connected to the underground sewer system. In addition, many unauthorized slums with no sewerage facility exist in various parts of the city. Wastewater generated from these sources often flow directly into the Ganga through minor channels. Furthermore, there are many cattle sheds, temples, hospitals and minor industries along the river shore, which discharge pollutants into the river. Though minor in comparison to the pollutant load discharged from major point sources, these pollution sources give an unhygienic appearance to the river shore and are causes of maximum complaints from concerned citizens and NGOs active in the area. Regarding visible pollution, a survey of the Ganga riverbank near Kanpur reveals the following. Some parts of the shore have been encroached by slums, while other portions are being used as illegal garbage dumps. Public defecation is common all along the river shore. Cattle shed owners, whose cattle wallow in the river, have colonized some portions of the riverbank. Washer-men, who wash clothes in the river and dry them on the shore, occupy some areas. Animal carcasses are strewn all around.

•  Implementation of the measures concerning elimination of non-point and visible pollution and riverfront development are likely to generate favorable public perception towards RAPs, increase beneficial uses of the river and its banks, thus helping in generating resources for maintenance and improvement of the created infrastructure. The above scenario is compared with the prevailing situation in Kanpur , where the river shores are a ‘no-go' area for citizens of Kanpur due to the aesthetically unpleasant and unwholesome conditions as described above. Such conditions are offensive to most citizens of Kanpur who consider Ganga to be a holy river. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to convince the citizens of Kanpur that any good has come of spending huge resources on GAP-related projects in Kanpur .

•  It is also suggested that in the modified approach, involvement of citizens groups and NGOs should not only be limited to monitoring of sanctioned projects, but should extend to providing inputs during the planning stages. This aspect has been quite neglected in the current approach to implementation of GAP and other similar plans in India . For example, the experience in Kanpur shows that government institutions responsible for implementing GAP have not been proactive in disseminating information regarding proposed schemes under GAP and potential benefits that might accrue from them. This has deprived the implementing organizations of valuable inputs regarding the perceptions and expectations of the citizens of Kanpur City regarding GAP. At present, almost all contact of the implementing organization with the general public is reactive and adversarial in nature, with NGOs and newspapers highlighting various shortcomings of GAP, and governmental agencies reacting to such reports.

•  It must be realized that the question of the financial sustainability of RAP schemes in general and GAP schemes in particular are intertwined with issues of public awareness, perception and benefits accruing from such projects. For example, the initial construction costs of GAP schemes in Kanpur are borne by the Indian Central Government, while the subsequent expansion, operation and maintenance costs are the responsibility of the State and Local authorities. However, expenditure of resources in the above manner become attractive for local authorities only when they feel a political compulsion for such action, which may only result from public awareness and support for GAP schemes.

•  Finally, it should be realized that even complete and adequate implementation of the initial measures described in the modified approach might not improve the water quality of the river sufficiently. However this must not be taken as a sign of ineffectiveness or failure of the measures taken. In fact it must be realized that the objective of the initial measures is to enhance public appreciation for RAP schemes through riverfront restoration and development works. This goodwill may then be leveraged to gain future support for longer-term measures for comprehensive improvement in river water quality through wastewater treatment, as outlined earlier, thus achieving the ultimate objective of the RAP.

In conclusion, one of the basic tenets of river cleaning strategies, i.e., treatment of large points loads of pollution must be given priority during river cleaning operations, as this would lead to considerable improvement in river water quality, may not be true in certain circumstances. In many areas of India and other developing countries, sewer networks do not exist or are inadequate. In such areas, non-point pollution of the river are often more important, and mere treatment of point loads of pollution is unlikely to improve water quality or increase beneficial uses of the river. Conventional river-cleaning strategies will thus lead to non-attainment of the river cleaning objectives in such cases and, as has been argued, will lead to negative public perception, leading to neglect or abandonment of such schemes due to lack of political and institutional support. Based on the above analysis, an alternate strategy for implementation of River Action Plans (RAPs) has also been proposed, which is more suitable for situations as prevailing in Kanpur . It is believed that these conclusions are universal and will not only be applicable in other areas/basins in India , but also in other parts of the developing world which have similar river water quality concerns and infra-structural deficiencies.


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