A recent map published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has revealed that water in nearly a dozen major stretches of the Ganga in West Bengal is so polluted that it is even unfit for bathing. The development comes at a time when the Centre has claimed that the Namami Gange project, with a budget of Rs. 20,000 crore, has achieved considerable success. The graphic map which marks the areas where the water of the Ganga is unfit for bathing with red dots shows that the pollution level in 11 major stretches of the Ganga spread across five districts and Kolkata is so high that it is even unfit for bathing. Apart from Kolkata (Garden Reach), the other affected stretches of the Ganga are located in the districts of Howrah (Uluberia, Shibpur), Hooghly (Tribeni, Serampore), North 24 Paraganas (Palta, Dakhineswar), Nadia (Nabadwip) and Murshidabad (Gorabazar, Behampore, Khagra). Apart from West Bengal, the water of the Ganga is also unfit for bathing in States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The map further reveals that Uttrakhand remains the only exception with 11 stretches of the Ganga being fit for bathing along with Ara town in Bihar. The map was published after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) authorities to set up display board along the banks of the Ganga at a gap of 100 km to indicate whether the water was fit for bathing or drinking.
State Irrigation Minister Somen Mahapatra said that he was not aware of the map published by the CPCB. Anil Gautam, faculty member the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun, said that “with rainfall the pollution level in the Ganga seems to be a little lower due to increase in flow of water. Once the monsoon comes to an end the quantity of pollutants will be even higher.” Former member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority Ravi Chopra argued that it was not only the Ganga, but almost all the rivers of the country were in a “terrible condition.” He refuted the Centre’s claim that considerable progress has been made in cleaning the rivers under the Namami Gange project.