Central Pollution Control Board
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
We all need to go beyond the death of fasting Swami Sanand (October 11,2018) and the disappointment he carried to his pyre at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s indifference to his demands for “Aviral Ganga.”
His no longer can be treated as an unfortunate incident for it throws up a whole lot of disturbing questions about the present ruling dispensation, unethical Congress, the clique of Sadhus and even Shankracharya, and above all an ecological disaster which awaits at least 40 million Indians if Maa Ganga goes.
If you cared to look on Youtube, you would be startled by the lucidity and conviction of the great man, how logical and disappointed he sounded on Prime Ministers, ministers, high bureaucrats, media and his own fraternity of sanyasis and sadhus, how instructional he is to individuals like you and me about trusting no one but yourself in achieving a higher cultural and ecological goal.
Those who hold the Hindu heritage and its revival as their life’s mission; that PM Narendra Modi is the harbinger of that change, would be sorely wounded hearing the great Sage say the project of “there can be no bigger conspiracy than Namami Gange”1 and that over Rs 20,000 crores spent on the holy river since 1986–and hundreds and thousands of crores more in near future–have been such a terrible, colossal waste.
He makes you shudder to the bones when he asks how the holy water, considered essential for a dying Hindu in every household, whose ashes if submerged in the holy river could pave the way for “nirvana”, which makes 10-12 crore devotees gather in faith in a Kumbh Mela; whose bacterial properties are lauded in 11 of 18 Puranas; which Krishna mentions in Bhagwad Gita as a dual image of his own, whose water once remained pure in jars even after decades, is hugely disease-prone today.
His stark questions to Uttarakhand government that it promotes and earns millions in the name of holy tourism in Haridwar and Rishikesh; makes visits of “kanwarias” as a moment to whip up the holy sentiments; and yet makes no attempt to stop hundreds of “barsati naaluhs” (rain-fed drains) from throwing its waste into the holy river; the debris of construction which further pollutes the river; the unbridled sand-mining, is a case of willful corrupt hypocrisy.
To the Central government, he outlines the wrong methodology of measuring the contaminated Ganga water; the hundreds of dams under construction/planned, usurping Ganga’s lands, the obfuscation between a judicial order and the real situation on ground which made him undertake multiple fasts since 2008 when he forsake his identity of G.D. Agarwal, a graduate from Berkley University, an IIT-professor; an original member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, and took to “sanyas” all with the sole purpose of devoting the rest of his life to the service of the mighty river he always addressed as Gangaji or Maa Ganga (“Like all women are not your mother; all rivers are not Gangaji”, is one of his famous euphemism).
He believed implicitly in the vow of PM Narendra Modi on the banks of river Ganga in Varanasi as his “mother” but then over a period of four-and-a-half years saw the uselessness of “Namami Gange”, the same bureaucratic apathy and the same litany of false promises. His first two letters to Modi during his final and fatal fast were initially addressed as “my younger brother” before his final letter took a formal tone. None of them elicited a response.
Politicians cutting across party lines are shown in poor light in various audios and videos which are listed at the end of this article and which are source of all the facts in this article. MatraSadan,here he lived and fasted, issued a transcript of Swami Sanand’s conversation with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, holding the Ganga Rejuvenation project, which shows a rather disdainful minister.
Swami Sanand’s interview with Madhu Purnima Kishwar mentions how then Union Minister Jairam Ramesh once refused to scuttle a project since Rs. 500 crores had been spent on it. “If money is the issue, we would raise Rs 500 crores for you,” retorted Swami Sanand. “And our commission?” said Ramesh, rather jestily. “We would arrange it too,” sniped back Swami Sanand.
Swami Sanand’s views are readily available on YouTube on how he was forcibly admitted in AIIMS; how visitors couldn’t reach him in hospital even in visitors’ hours unless they were screened; how his faith in fellow sadhus and sanyasis—“all sadhus are dhongis, maukhata lagaye huan hain “(all Sadhus are hypocrites and two-faced)”—and even in his own Guru and Shankracharya—“how my private emails to government were instantly made available to them and how I was subsequently rebuked by them”—was completely eroded by the end of his legendary life. Not to mention environmentalist Sunita Narain who he found making excuses for her absence to Ganga’s cause.
And why this fuss was all about?
Because Swami Sanand scientifically knew more about Gangaji more than ordinary folks in this country do. The holy river which begins in Gangotri glacier in Himalayas’s southern slope and runs through India and Bangladesh, a total distance of 2520 kms, home to 140 different species of fish and 90 species of amphibians, many of them now extinct, is the mother which nurtured India’s civilization for tens of thousands of years. It created the arable lands, lush forests, supported life which allowed the cultural, intellectual and religious magnificence of this country to flourish and endure.
The sediment-rich flow of Ganga and Brahmaputra is the largest known river delta in the world, spanning 59,000 square kilometers, supporting the livelihood of 400 million people. Vedas heavily mention Ganga as a sacred river.
It’s just not water alone—though it’s important enough for who survives without water?—but its’ unique properties. DS Bhargava of University of Roorkee found Ganga to decompose organic waste at a 15-25 rates faster than any other river of the world.
New Delhi’s Malaria Research Center claimed that water taken from Gange’s upper ambit prevented mosquito breeding. British bacteriologist Ernest Hanbury Hankin found out in 1896 that Vibrio Cholerae, a deadly bacterium known to spread Cholera, was killed within three hours after it was added in water from Ganga. He eventually concluded that Ganga—and Yamuna—have been largely responsible for preventing the spread of cholera.
Swami Sanand’s death to Gangaji’s cause was not the first one. Swami Nigmananda had died for a similar cause, seven years ago in 2011. Swami Sanand’s had famously predicted that Swami Nigmananda’s death would make 10 Nigmananda’s sacrifice their lives. He himself was to be the next in line. The people we choose to effect the change, however, remain indifferent. Ganga remains a dump of our waste. Nothing but a mass resistance would do if Ganga, or India, is to survive.
1- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7rW0nNkxwU (23.51-24.05)
The striking municipal employees of Delhi this week relented after the high court intervention but it appears only a pause before it drops its broom again on rulng Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Typically, AAP sees the role of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its control of Capital’s civic agencies behind this mess at their door.
Mess literally is at every door. In Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ludhiana, Pune—name any city and any town. Strikes only put the pictures in front of our eyes which we feint, dodge, duck, skirt, nose-block or sprint everyday in front of proverbial dhalaos (proverbial garbage dump in our neighbourhoods). Now that you can’t evade the headlines, pictures, putrid smell or rotting garbage on Capital’s streets, and are pinned to the wall, brace for a knock-out punch.
India generates 62 million tonnes of trash every year by its nearly 400 million people living in urban India, now the world’s third-largest garbage accumulator. The World Bank sees a 240 percent rise in it by 2026. Now hold your breath (pun intended), nearly 45 million tonnes of it is untreated. Put it this way, it amounts to nearly 3 million trucks which, if laid in a row would scale half the distance between the earth and the moon.
So let’s take a closer look at this mounting shit. Delhi and Mumbai (10,000 tonnes of garbage every day) are obviously top of the heap but lesser towns are no less alarming. Ludhiana has crossed a 1,000 tonnes of waste a day and so has Nagpur or Indore. And all of this doesn’t include the industrial waste. Rapid economic growth, flight to cities, overcrowding, pathetic urban planning, corruption, all have taken a heavy toll.
Last month, Mumbai was wrapped in toxic smog for days. So bad was the air quality that schools were ordered close. It so happened that Deonar, one of Mumbai’s biggest landfills, had suddenly caught fire. It receives 5,000 tonnes of waste every day.
Deonar, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claims, would be shut down this year. The landfills in Gorai and Chincholi Bunder have already been closed due to over-use. Same is true of Mulund which is facing a closure.
In Delhi, the waste was dumped into four landfill sites. Three of the four landfills stopped working, so overflowing and hazardous, fire or otherwise, it were. These landfills were extended over 164 acres which is four times less than required area of 650 acres according to a 2011 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). So bad is the situation that even some dhalaos can’t be emptied in the space of a week.
Bangalore onwards. Mandur, at 153 acres, is one of the most controversial landfills of the city. The entrance to the city was blocked by its residents in 2012. They claimed that landfill was poisoning the local water supplies. Police intervened and dispersed the protestors who then went on a hunger strike. The state government finally intervened and ordered it to be closed.
In August 2012, more than 5,000 people, women, schoolchildren, kids, defied the police in Vilappil, a small village about 15km from Kerala’s captail, Thiruvananthapuram, to protest against a waste treatment plant. Again, the protest was on the contamination of the groundwater. Since then they have moved the Kerala High Court who have referred the matter to National Green Tribunal.
The story of these landfills is horrific in its own account. Not all garbage is collected—only 68 per cent of it by the municipal authorities. Only 28 percent of it is treated. There is no waste segregation system. It means waste is burnt without separating biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable garbage. A lot of wet waste decomposes. It’s prime habitat for rodents and mosquitoes that spread malaria and dengue. We already know of the contaminated water. The stuff that rots catches fire. Rising smoke fill the air—half of which is deadly methane. Drains are blocked which cause floods. Air and water pollution leads to diseases and a great strain on health infrastructure. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 22 types of diseases can be prevented in India if waste is managed well.
What’s worse, 50 percent of the biodegradable waste could be turned into compost which could support farming. Untapped waste could generate enough power to meet the demands of a small union territory like Pondicherry. Segregation could keep plastics, paper and glass apart. Plastic waste is a crucial fuel for energy plants.
Rules exist but are hardly enforced. For example, a rule states that “landfills should not be near habitations.” What’s near is undefined. So the Deonar site is less than a kilometer away from the nearest residential colony. The rules want scrap-dealers and rag-pickers to be stake-holders in the clean-up operation. But rag-pickers hardly have designated spaces to sort out the rubbish. There is no protective gear against hazardous dumps.
There are some admirable actions on the sidelines though. In Bangalore, there is a non-profit organization called Daily Dump which moves from door-to-door and advocate the waste segregation. They organize a “Trash Trail” which is a nine-hour “expedition” on foot and by van through the city’s waste fields.
Blaming authorities is convenient. The infrastructure has aged. Citizens have their hands soiled with blame too. Most still like to dump their waste away from home, rather than in front of it for easy pick-up.
The Modi government has set its sight on “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission). It aims to collect, process, dispose, recycle and generally manage the garbage in over 4000 Indian towns among other things. This ambitious scheme is of around $10 billion.
Just for facts, China and United States create a higher amount of waste than India. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries create half of world’s garbage. An average person creates waste of around three times his own weight each year.