The Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement founder has a revolutionary idea that can rejuvenate Ganga like never before
She goes on, flows on. She takes one to the feet of Lord. She is lifeline. She is Ganga. Save Ganga, it will save us!
The importance of Ganga and how it nurtured and supported the rise of Indian civilisation is no hidden tale. And so, many ideas, concepts and projects have been pitched and implemented over the years to clean the holy river and get rid of the pollution taking over its beauty, relevance.
From 1905 to 2018 we saw ambitious efforts such as the inception of the Ganga Mahasabha in 1905, launch of the Ganges Action Plan in 1985, establishment of the National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA) in 2009, the closure of many industrial plants by the Supreme Court, the introduction of integrated Ganga development project ‘Namami Gange’ in 2014, the setup of National Mission for Clean Ganga in 2016, et al. The efforts have been plethora but it still remains as though a game changing plan is yet awaited. An idea that is simple to implement yet so effective that it can change the scenario for once and all!
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, is a man of innovations – take for example his idea of the two-pit pour-flush toilets that not only dismisses the malpractice of open-defecation but also ploughed out the evil custom of manual scavenging. One such innovative idea that Dr Pathak has is like The Mantra to achieve clean flowing Ganga, rejuvenate the holy river and restore it into the pure holy river it was ages ago.
Dr Pathak’s idea: Dedicate to Ganga 10,000 responsible, accountable people/volunteers and she will be cent per cent clean soon, and remain that way!
HOW? Read in Dr Pathak’s own words:
1. A ‘Sulabh’ Solution
“There is a popular saying in Hindi which says that if a person does not look after his farm and cattle daily, he will lose both. So to keep Ganga clean, people themselves have to engage. Areas should be allotted as per proximity, and each person should be accountable to their particular area.
The length of Ganga is 2525 km, and starting from Gangotri the number of people required – say, half kilometer per person, i.e. only 5000 people each on both the sides of the river – will be only 10,000 and the Ganga will be clean.
Such people should be held accountable who can be punished and/or awarded. It will be their responsibility, that if there is any factory or brewery in their area, no waste is deposited into the river. It will be as simple as that. It will not only ensure the cleanliness but also provide employment to these many people, and make the process transparent as well. It is a ‘Sulabh’ solution.”
2. Let The Mainstream Do The Trick
“Dead corpses are burnt and then the ashes are immersed into Ganga. We have seen that the mainstream is not polluted, it has such quality/characteristic that it does not get polluted. That is because the mainstream is able to take care of the pollution itself.
Such arrangements should be made that ashes are immersed at such point which is 200 metres away from the mainstream. When the ashes will reach the mainstream after 200 metres, they will be then taken care of by mainstream itself. Otherwise what is happening now is that all the immersed substances settle around the banks of these rivers.”
3. Daily & Immediate Actions
“The former CM of Bihar, Daroga Prasad Rai, had said that social work cannot be done alone by the government or an organisation. If the two join hands, then only the mission can be accomplished. This is true. If all come together, it can be done.
We all pray the holy Ganga. Nobody has to tell us to do that, we do it by our own. Similarly, to keep Ganga clean, whatever one can do on their own they should contribute with that.
Pick one area and visit it daily to check its cleanliness. Engage with your family, friends, neighbours to keep it clean. If fund is needed, you can ask the tourists and pilgrims for donation. You can even approach the government for funding. But you have to look after the area daily.
Round the globe when if the corpses or carcasses are thrown into rivers they should be immediately roped out. We (Sulabh) cleaned one ghat – Assi Ghat, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself cleaned and then later on Sulabh took it forward. Today, round-the-clock we look after it. If something is littered around the Assi Ghat or thrown into the river, we immediately remove it. Our people sit on boats and whenever anybody throws any flower, fruit or anything else, we immediately take them out of the river.
Till the time Ganga is not maintained round-the-clock, nothing substantial will happen.”
4. Don’t Change Traditions, Change Habits
“We cannot stop people from offering diyas or flowers to the holy Ganga, but we can at least urge them to take it all out from the river and keep aside on the bank once the pooja is done. The caretaker can remove them from there.
Sulabh believes in giving practical and mutual solutions – What is human behaviour and how we can change it mutually, make them understand. Such solutions will work in the long run.
Nowadays flowers are used as good composts or for extracting the Holi colours. The people who do the extraction can collect these flowers from the banks and reuse for the desired output.”
5. Treatment As Important As Protection
“Treatment of waste water is very necessary. Today there are 732 cities whose sewage water goes direct to rivers. Class-I cities are around 500, 232 are Class-II cities. Treatment coverage in the Class-I cities is average, i.e. only 32 per cent. Treatment in Class-II cities is mere 8 per cent. Treatment in Delhi is 69 per cent. So the remaining goes into rivers, Ganga being one such river.
For cleaning Ganga, it is important that sewage water and the wastewaters from tanneries and breweries be treated 100 per cent.
All the early civilisations settled on the banks of rivers as water was needed for drinking, trade and commerce, and dispose off the used water, be it of toilets, kitchens, etc, into those rivers. Earlier the population was less and so the use of toilets was also limited. Now what has happened is that lakhs and crores of people are living in one city.
Today Sulabh recycles the human excreta, produces biogas from it and ignites lamps, cooks food, produces electricity, etc. with that very gas. And the water that we clean through our plant is so clean – there is a technical term for it: Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) per liter per milligram – that it has 10 BOD, which is of very clean water. It has nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and can be used for various activities such as farming, where it will act as a compost, or can even be added to rivers.
This way the river too can remain clean and free of pollution. Such treatment plants, of the kind that is here in Sulabh Gram, are needed to be placed in such way that even before the sewage can enter the river, the water is cleaned prior hand. Then the water can immerse into rivers and no pollution will be done.”
6. Don’t Forget The Toilets!
“As you can see, with reference to saving the environment from pollution, the toilets built in houses and at public places are a big reason behind the however much cleanliness that is there today in India. You can imagine it for yourself that had the situation that was 50 years ago remained the same today, then what would have been the current scenario? Had Sulabh Shauchalaya not been invented, then even today neither the malpractice of open defecation nor manual scavenging could have ended.
Through the joint efforts of Uttarakhand government and Sulabh, toilets were built in Uttarakhand, especially Gangotri. The Uttarakhand government wanted that Sulabh Shauchalaya be built in Gangotri so that the pilgrims do not have to roam about and open defecate which pollutes the area as well as the Ganga Jal.
All the houses that are built near the banks of Ganga, or are in the catchment area, should have toilets so that there is no open defecation and no deposit of human excreta into the holy river.
Plus, just building the toilet is not sufficient, it has to be maintained. It should be clean, people should be made aware to access it.”
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