VARANASI: A survey report of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) says that 80 per dent Varanasi respondent feel that water quality of river Ganga has an impact on their health. TERI Environmental Survey 2015 was released on Wednesday. The survey aims to gauge the perception, awareness, opinion and behavior of people towards environment in seven Indian cities including Varanasi.
According to Avni Gupta of TERI, the survey conducted from December 2014 to February 2015 covered seven river cities including Delhi on River Yamuna, Varanasi on River Ganga, Cuttack on River Mahanadi, Surat on River Tapti, Jabalpur on River Narmada, Vijayawada on River Krishna, Dibrugarh on River Brahmaputra. The survey had three focus areas - overall environment, health and environment and environment in river cities. A total of 15,145 people were surveyed in these cities including 2012 in Varanasi. The respondents were distributed across different age groups, occupation, and educational background and income levels.
According to the survey, only 5% of the respondents felt that the river water in the city was in good condition. About 58% felt that the odor in the surrounding areas of River Ganga has worsened, while 96% of them found river water unsafe to drink without treatment. Nearly 72% held individual citizens responsible for the current condition of the river, followed by industries (15%) and local government/Municipal Corporation (13%). About 55% of the respondents had heard about the National Mission for Clean Ganga, followed by 31% who had heard about it but did not know the details of the Mission. About 65% respondents thought that the mission would be successful in achieving its goal.
About 89% respondents felt there should be a reduction on the amount of religious material such as ashes and flowers released in the river. Nearly 92% respondents felt that increasing dead bodies of human beings and cattle floating in the Ganges posed a threat to the health of the river. More than 60% of the respondents thought that there had been a significant reduction in the flow of the river, particularly in the non-monsoon season. Majority of the respondents thought the reason for this to be variability in rainfall (66%) followed by excessive diversion and use of water for agriculture and industrial activity (nearly 45%).
While 54% of the respondents thought that the river has become more flood prone and devastating in the last five years, 70% attributed this to encroachment on the river and floodplains and 48% thought variability in rainfall. About 56% of respondents identified solid waste being dumped into the river and lack of government or municipality's initiative to clean the river (54%) to be the prime reasons for poor quality of the city's river.
Nearly 50% of the respondents felt that the environmental indicators such as number of bird and insect species, air quality, surface water quality, green cover, and waste and waste management had worsened in the past five years. Nearly 56% of them identified human activities such as industrial activity, transportation, construction and deforestation to be the cause of changing climate patterns, whereas 43% perceived it to be a natural process. While 62% felt that temperature had increased, 81% of the respondents thought rainfall to have decreased during the last five years, and 63% opined that frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, floods and droughts had increased. About 56% felt that no government policies or legislations exist relating to wastewater treatment, 55% felt the same for groundwater usage and water conservation and 49% for water supply and climate change. Around 67% felt that the Government of India's "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" will be a success in improving the quality of the rivers flowing through the cities.
About 48% identified water quality as the issue with greatest visible impact on human health. Waste and air quality was also identified by 31% and 21% respectively, to be the problem with the most visible impact on human health. About 63% perceived that water-borne diseases are majorly caused by bad quality of environment, and 51% said the same for respiratory illnesses.