Tests show Ganga water in Haridwar fit to drink

Based on inputs by Meeta K

In fact, for the first time in decades, the water quality at Har-ki-Pauri has been classified as “fit for drinking after chlorination”.With industries that discharge effluents in Ganga shut and ghats closed to public, the waters of the holy river at Rishikesh and Haridwar — twin cities that record pilgrim rush throughout the year — have seen a significant improvement in quality.

Data accessed by Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) indicates that all parameters of water assessment at Har-ki-Pauri have significantly improved since the lockdown was put in place.

“There is a 34% reduction in fecal coliform (human excreta) and 20% reduction in biochemical oxygen demand (a parameter to asses the quality of effluent or wastewater) at Har-ki-Pauri in April,” chief environment officer of UEPPCB, SS Pal, said.

Pal added that due to the lockdown, water in Har-ki-Pauri has ranked in Class A for the first time in recent history. “The water has always been placed in Class B since Uttarakhand was formed in 2000,” he said.

Class A water has pH balance between 6.5 to 8.5. The pH is a measure of how acidic the water is and optimum pH for river water is considered around 7.4.

It also has adequate dissolved oxygen — 6mg/litre or more. Dissolved oxygen levels below 5mg/litre can cause stress to aquatic life. The water now has a low biochemical oxygen demand and a low count of total coliform. While Class A water is fit to drink after disinfection, Class B water is fit for bathing, that too after treatment.

Scientists at IIT-Roorkee said that the latest results suggest discharge of industrial effluents into the river and human activities must be checked to rejuvenate the river. M K Jain, head of the department of hydrology at the institute, said, “Pollution levels seem to have reduced due to the ongoing lockdown and its effect can be clearly seen in the river water.”

The rejuvenation of Ganga has led seers in Haridwar — many of whom have fronted campaigns and fasts unto deaths — to claim that this is the course of action they have been calling for all along.

“Why is the government wasting money on revival of Ganga when all it needs to do is to leave the river alone? This can be done by banning human activities like building of hydropower plants, mining and industrial waste being dumped into Ganga,” asked head of Matri Sadan, Swami Shivanand Saraswati.

Renowned water conservationist Rajendera Singh said Ganga is an example of how “the mad rush of development” must stop. “The main lesson here is that we must move in tandem with nature. How long will the water remain pure? The worry is that once the lockdown is lifted, things will return to what they were,” he said.

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