Lucknow: Will the Ganges flow clean during the Maha Kumbh 2013 – arguably the biggest religious congregation on earth? Even as the Uttar Pradesh government reassures the sadhus and the courts that when millions take the holy dip in the Sangam – the confluence at Allahabad of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati – the ground reality throws up a grim situation.
The public toilets that are being built to avoid defecation near or in the rivers are far from being complete, admit urban development department officials. The department’s recent report to the Allahabad High Court was found to be inadequate, incomplete and unsatisfactory. The blanket ban on the dumping of sewage ordered by the court, another menace threatening the cleanliness of the rivers, is also far from being implemented in spirit, officials conceded.
With less than a month left for the start of the holy congregation – on Makar Sankranti on Jan 14, 2013 – sources say that sewage from the city is still being drained into the Ganges.
“What can we do? Sewage systems cannot be re-laid overnight and sewage water re-routed,” an exasperated official told IANS. He admitted that many big drains carrying sewage and waste from Allahabad city were opening right into the Ganges at points like Naini, Jhoosi and Daraganj.
Arun Gupta, the amicus curie appointed by the Allahabad High Court too seems cut up by the tardy progress on this front. “Despite the clear cut instructions of the court, dirty water is flowing into the Ganga from these three major sources,” he said.
A government document – part of the review meeting records – admitted that “completion of Rajapur sewage treatment plant and the sewage pumping stations (SPS) at Ghaghar Nala and Chachar Nala before Kumbh appears doubtful”.
Other than this, during January 14 to February 25, between which the major bathing days of the Maha Kumbh fall, the government plans to release 2,500 cusecs of water into the Ganges every day. The court was informed of this by Additional Advocate General C.B. Yadav.
The Tehri Dam in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand will also release 1,000 cusecs of water on the main bathing days. The Tehri Dam is built on the Bhagirati river, which flows into the Alaknanda river that in turn flows into the Ganges.
Adequate water release into the Ganges is considered necessary to not only maintain the flow but also to ensure that the river is clean enough for the millions to take a dip.
The main bathing days are January 14 (Makar Sankranti), January 27 (Paush Purnima), February 6 (Ekadashi) February 10 (Mauni Amavasya), February 14 (Basant Panchami), February 17 (Rath Saptami), February 18 (Bhisma Ashtami) and February 25 (Maghi Purnima). The Mauni Amavasya bathing is the most important where over 20 million people are expected to converge in Allahabad for a holy dip.
Bharatiya Janata Party firebrand Uma Bharati had recently met Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and had sought his intervention in ensuring that the Ganges flows clean during the Maha Mumbh. Yadav had assured her that the needful would be done. There is anger amongst the sadhus over the quality of water in the Ganges and the saints have threatened to boycott the Shahi Snan if the water is not cleaned till then.
The nine-month-old Akhilesh Yadav government plans to showcase the Kumbh Mela to the world as “its ability to govern and manage well” said an official, pointing out in the same breath that this, as of now, looked very unlikely. Chief Secretary Javed Usmani reviews the status of the Maha Kumbh preparations on a fortnightly basis but things continue to move at snail’s pace.
The Maha Kumbh concludes March 10.
While the Maha Kumbh is held every 12 years, Kumbh Melas are held every four years, alternately at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain.