Patna:There have been ambitious projects to clean the holy Ganga river, including the much-hyped Namami Gange project, and restore to its lost glory and purity, but, in the past, they have hardly yielded results, as effluents from home and industries flew untreated into the river, contaminating it and making the water poisonous.
Prior to the lockdown, water samples collected for testing from some areas of Kanpur and even Varanasi had indicated presence of coliform up to 25,000 to 35,000, the permissible limit being hardly 500 per 100 millilitre. Even in Bihar, the coliform level at Thriveni Ghat in Fatuha measured a whopping 12,800 as an average of April 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Even the PH level, dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand measured prior to the lockdown was shocking. The permissible parameters being far below the existing level, dashed any hope of revival of the river. Often, elaborate plans to cleanse the river were construed as yet another money minting project with no end result, but plenty of hype.
The river has finally shown signs of rejuvenation and much improvement on almost all parameters, following the lockdown. And none of it is due to any government-sponsored programme or project. The river has a self-cleaning mechanism and the bacteriophages in it relentlessly work to clean the river. But the river, with all the unprecedented pollutants in it, far outnumbered the bacteriophages, rendering it a stagnant decaying body of drain water. Life seems to be returning to the river. The flow has resumed and the parameters of river water purity have shown signs of drastic improvement. And this is due to abstinence of human beings from interference in the flow of the river. At Digha ghat in Patna, the river flows serene, with no interruption in its flow.
The banks are clean and not a single human soul can be spotted by the river bank, defecating or even performing ablutions. A fisherman, balancing himself precariously on the far end of a dinghy (small country made boat), pulled his fish net out of the water with one hand and with the other, paddled back to the bank, evidently with a good catch. He had taken the risk to venture out in the lockdown in the early hours for fishing, more due to compulsion than just the greed for more. A dolphin surfaced, a rare sight, only to disappear with a hissing sound in less than a second just in front of his boat.
The gradual transformation in the quality of the water is the first sign of hope. To have a better understanding of the mammoth transformation in the quality of water in Ganga, the Bihar state pollution control board was approached for specific data, since they have been conducting regular tests of water samples from various places across Bihar.
Dr Ashok Ghosh, chairman of the Bihar state pollution control board, said, “The kind of positive changes that have taken place in the river and the way the quality of water has improved in the river during the lockdown, it’s evident that the problem was anthropogenic—that is caused by human beings. Various ambitious projects by various governments could not bring the desired results. This is for the first time that the river appears to be getting back to its old form. Post lockdown, possibly there should be a rethink on the whole issue—defining the role of human beings vis-a-vis nature.”
Prior to the lockdown, the BoD averaged between 1.8 to 2.5 miligrams per litre and subsequently, during lockdown in April, it was found to be between 1.6 to 2.0. The amount of fecal coliform averaged 2,667 to 7,867 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and got reduced to 1,100 to 6,050 in April 2020. The results are encouraging. 

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