Ganga River for ages have remained the most sacred river of India. Water of this river has been used for washing, drinking, farming, navigation etc. and, above all, for all sorts of puja and ceremonial purposes. People even worship this river as a divine entity and a large number of religious centres have grown up all along its length.
The water flow of this river (from Gangotri to Gangasagar) have reduced substantially over the years due to construction of dam and other obstructions. The 2,525 kms stretch of this river flows through several states and receives urban and industrial wastes from 29 Class I cities (population over 1,00,000), 23 Class II cities (population between 50,000 and 1,00,000) and about 48 towns.
A survey of the Ganga Basin conducted by the Central Board for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution revealed that the main sources of pollution are:
1. Cremated corpses coming from the crematorium situated by the side of the river.
2. Drainage of excess chemical fertilisers and insecticides from agricultural lands.
3. Industrial wastes.
4. Bulk of the pollution is due to untreated municipal sewage.
The above findings had led the Central Pollution Control Board to construct a project together with State Boards and 14 Universities along the Ganga Basin, on prevention and control of pollution of Ganga. A fullfledged Ganga Project Directorate had been formed in the Ministry of Environment and Forests. A Central Ganga Action Plan was formulated with a view to lessen the pollution rate.
The different measures taken are:
1. Waste waters not to be added directly into Ganga, but only after it is treated.
2. Renovation of existing-sewers and outfalls to prevent the overflow of sewage into Ganga.
3. Construction of interceptors to divert flow of sewers and other liquid wastes into Ganga.
4. Renovation of existing sewage pumping stations and sewage treatment plants.
5. Construction and reconstruction of Ghats for bathing, low cost latrine, and proper disposal of wastes should be implemented.
6. Electric furnace in cremation grounds should be constructed by the side of the river.
7. Biological conservation measures based on proper techniques to be implemented.
8. Recent technologies to be introduced for the measurement of pollution, improvement of waste renewal systems, protection of ecosystem etc.
9. Proper implementation of environmental acts against pollution.
10. Strict implementation against the unscientific use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides.
11. Forestation to be done on the embankment of the river.
12. The most important fact is to create consciousness among the people.
Further, a monitoring committee was formed by the Central Ganga Authority (CGA) to look after:
1. Technical analysis and review of the progress made in the implementation of the Ganga Action Plan.
2. Assessment of shortfalls and gaps in the implementation.
3. Additional suggestions to improve or expedite the implementation of the programme.
4. Establishing a computer data based collection or analysis system.
5. Furnishing technical advice or guidance to steering committee on any of the issues which may arise as feedback during the implementation of the project.
6. Reporting to the Central Ganga Authority after every three months.
7. To keep the public informed about the progress of various schemes under the Ganga Action Plan, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting finalised a multimedia programme.
Subsequently, in 2000, the National River Conservation Authority (NRCA) replaced the functions of CGA and expanded its activities in 157 towns located along 31 interstate rivers in 18 states.