To re-establish the glory of Holy River ‘Ganga’ in the pilgrimage city Varanasi, The Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi, organized a two-day International Conference, “River Health: Assessment to Restoration” (RHAR 2021). The core objective of the hybrid conference was to initiate the dialogue about the tributaries of Ganga known as Varuna and Assi and emphasize the restoration of these tributaries for complete health restoration of River Ganga. In addition, the conference also aimed to collect, compile and comprehend all the facts and figures related to the tributaries which play an important role and will further help in their health restoration.
The Department of Civil Engineering, IIT(BHU) lead the conference where the experts from different institutes such as IIT Guwahati, IIT Gandhinagar, IIT Delhi and BHU were participated. All Stakeholders including Government Departments, Municipal agencies, Civil Society representatives, French experts along with other international experts were invited for active participation at the conference. Prof. Harvey Piegay, CNRS, France, talked about the collaboration between India and France for restoring the river health and appreciated the efforts of the Indian scientific community and NMCG. Prof P Gille from France spoke about pollutants movement at the confluences of the tributaries. Shri RR Mishra – DG, NMCG, Ministry of Jal Shakti discussed about the initiatives of NMCG on the subject and Shri JPS Rathore, Chairman UPPCB talked about the ongoing initiatives taken for health restoration of river Varuna. The convener of the conference was Prof PK Singh and Co-Conveners were Dr. Anurag Ohri and Dr. Shishir Gaur.
The conference was initiated to discuss the grave concern caused to the holy river Ganga. The tributaries Varuna and Assi have become heavily polluted further polluting river Ganga. To address the concern, experts from various institutes, both National and International discussed methods and techniques in accordance with the root cause of the problem to plan and strategize ways for resolving the issue.
Some of the key points discussed during the conference include:
• Identifying the key pollution issues that need to be addressed in the Varuna and Assi Tributaries and to be incorporated in rejuvenation activities;
• Collate and analyze all data, facts and figures that are significant to the health restoration of the Varuna and Assi tributaries;
• Invite ideas/proposals/concepts from both domestic and international experts to learn about good practices or approaches across the world that may be contextualized and replicated in these Tributaries;
• Assess innovative and contemporary technologies for restoration of the two tributaries
• Identification of Social and Administrative pathways towards the purpose
During the conference, the stakeholders and experts suggested different solutions categorized under four segments – Industrial Water Pollution; Domestic Water Pollution; Agricultural Water Pollution; and Groundwater & E-Flows. All solutions will be later analysed by experts and implemented based on the inputs and approvals of members of the multi-stakeholder group. Additionally, demonstrations and pilot projects will also be actioned early, potentially replicating and scaling up the issue.
Seeking national and international expert advice, the first step to attain the objective is that the two Ghats- one (Shashtri ghat) on the river Varuna and another (Sankhat Mochan ghat) on river Assi has been selected and proposed to be developed for bathing purpose.
Convener Prof PK Singh conveyed that Convenor Prof. Prabhat Kumar Singh said that Initiatives of NMCG on Ganga is very remarkable but now this is the time to start initiatives on the tributaries of River Ganga and this will help to restore the complete health of River Ganga. We will prepare a detailed report on the outcome of the conference and share the detailed recommendation with NMCG.
Dr Shishir Gaur stated that understanding the river water and groundwater exchanges is very important for the restoration of river health and IIT(BHU) is developing mathematical models to quantify those exchanges in River Ganga.
IIT (BHU) will put their efforts into the clean Ganga through French international partners. A team of French scientists will plan the visit to India in the next year for the same purpose.
Also, to boost this objective this year, IIT BHU has collaborated to build Solar plus Lithium Battery solutions to replace DG sets on boats and electrify the boats at the river Ganga.
Prof Pramod Kumar Jain, Director, IIT(BHU) Varanasi said, “Our recent conference towards the complete restoration of river health shows our larger contribution towards social and environmental solutions. Our city Varanasi is located at the bank of Holy River Ganga, and in the last few years, it has been observed that the water has been heavily polluted. The Government of India has taken various initiatives for a cleaner Ganga and that has been an incredible approach but additionally, it is also important to understand the root cause of the pollution. Therefore, our faculty members, students and various experts came on board to discuss and implement concrete solutions towards the health restoration of the river Ganga. It is imperative to conduct an expert discussion helping the researchers to develop a holistic and viable approach attaining our core objective”.
With this approach, it is expected that the team of IIT BHU will develop and implement a better methodology contributing positively towards the health restoration of the river Ganga near Varanasi.