Hopeful after 28 years- Veer Bhadra Mishra gives a TEDx talk about the Swatcha Ganga campaign

In this talk, Dr Veer Bhadra Mishra talks of the high levels of pollution of the river Ganga and the need to find a solution through a mix of science and tradition

Veer Bhadra Mishra has been working on the Swacha Ganga Campaign for the last 25 years. It is 'focused on cleaning the river Ganga, by creating an interaction between science, technology, culture, faith and people at national and international level'.

In this talk, he begins by saying that the masses in India do not have a scientific background, and so are unable to grasp the details of water pollution and its parameters. However, the tradition in our country is to respect rivers, especially the River Ganga which is respected by millions as the provider of 'Dharma' and 'Moksh'. According to mythology, Ganga is able to provide well-being in this world and salvation in the next.
The Ganges at Gadmukteshwar

Important centres of pilgrimage, the cities along the Ganges are also sources of pollution (Photo: Chicu)

400 million people living in the river basin depend on the water in this river system. Today, the river is receiving the sewage of about a 114 cities. Dr.Mishra states that he is a believer in the Ganga and cannot severe his relationship with the river, his mother. He affirms that he will be with her. His scientific background and devotee's heart- these two faculties are needed to take care of the problems of our mothers, the Earth and the Ganga.  He has been working with enthusiasm and resilience for more than two decades- this only comes because of these two qualities.

Varanasi has 60,000 direct users who visit the rivers everyday. Of these, for about 10%, the Ganga is the means of life. These devotees imbibe pollutants along with the river. In Varanasi, about 36 open sewers discharge into the river.

What could be the standards for such a river, which is used for Darshan and ritual imbibing?  There can be no 'standards' for such a river. His request is to stop all point source pollution which carry 95% percent of the pollution. This can be stopped in 5 years, if the nation so desires and this is backed by political will. The engineer in him attests that this is not just possible in Varanasi, but in all the 114 cities discharging huge amounts of sewage into this river. Dr.Mishra with his technical background knows what is pollution, and the dangers of contact with polluted water. He has suffered from many diseases due to this water. He has a good team in Varanasi, which has both scientific background and the committment to take care of the river.
Woman bathing in shallow and polluted water in the Ganges at KachlaPollution and declining water levels fail to deter devotees from their worship (Photo: Chicu)

He believes there is not much time left now, since the quantities of sewage in the river are increasing. He also says that the devotees of Ganga are an endangered species.

He recommends that all sewage pipes lead to a treatment complex away from the river. This needs to be gravity-based, to minimise dependence on electricity. He also recommends that the treatment plant be as far as possible, independent of electricity. After research, he has come to the conclusion that interception and diversion of sewage is crucial. They have also found some wasteland near Varanasi that can be used. They have also planned an innovative treatment system.

After 28 years, this experiment is now in progress and the Swatcha Ganga Campaign is now hopeful.

Read more about TEDx Delhi here.

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