The Ganga river
CHENNAI: Does lockdown make any difference to the quality of water in our rivers? No, if you go by a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment.
“Evidence suggests that the lockdown did not make any substantive difference to the water quality of rivers with respect to their biological load, as domestic wastewater still found its way into the rivers. It is clear that without sustainable city-wide sanitation for all, it is impossible to clean our rivers,” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE. She was speaking at a high-level virtual meeting held recently on how to achieve city-wide sanitation for making rivers pollution-free.
Titled “Mainstreaming faecal sludge and septage management in Ganga basin”, the meeting was co-hosted by the CSE and the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). Upendra Prasad Singh, secretary, department of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, ministry of jal shakti, chaired it.
Singh highlighted the importance of “effective on-ground work towards septage management by various states in tandem with the national guidelines”. “It is critical to explore alternative solutions to address the challenges in sewerage management,” he said.
“No solution can be called the complete solution — to achieve city-wide sanitation, we must complement the existing capacity of sewage treatment with faecal sludge management practices, which will not only help in containing indiscriminate discharge of faecal sludge in the neighbourhood but also contribute to pollution abatement of our water bodies. It is time we scaled up the pilot initiatives across the country,” said Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
Talking about the initiatives undertaken by the Odisha government, G Mathi Vathanan, principal secretary, H&UD department, Odisha, pointed out that compared to a centralised sewerage system, implementing faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) was not only economical but also less time-consuming.
Odisha deserves special mention in this context. According to Vathanan, the pollution load in rivers has reduced since the state’s 10 faecal sludge treatment plants became operational. Most of these plants are being run and maintained by women’s self-help groups and transgender self-help groups. In one of the cities, members of SHGs are managing the whole sanitation chain from operating the public toilets and transporting faecal sludge to maintaining the FSTPs.
Narain and Suresh Rohilla, who put forth CSE’s observations and experiences on the subject, explained how the SFD (Shit Flow Diagram) tool — which helps in mapping the flow of excreta throughout a city– works.
The CSE has joined hands with government agencies to promote SFDs as a viable initiative, and the first two phases of this promotion exercise have brought forth promising results.