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The Ganga is slowly veering away from the city of Patna. The Nitish government has announced a slew of measures but it might be a case of too little, too late.
There is one glaring example of how the Gangetic landscape has changed in Patna. The banks of the river have always been an integral part of the city's cultural and social life. But today, people who live on the banks of the river in the Digha, Bansghat, Mainpura, Kurji, Dujra and Bans Ghat areas can see the river only as a speck on the horizon.
Over the last three decades, says Prof M K Prasad, a member of the Ganga Research Laboratory BHU, the course of the river has moved nearly 4 km away from the city. The width of the river's sand-bed is expanding by 5-6 metres and its height is rising by 8-10 cm annually. The river stretch once used for cruising, especially from Mahendru Ghat to Pahlezaghat, Hajipur, has dried up and is used to cultivate vegetables.
Ganga's problems are unending. Haphazard urbanisation and rising population have led to severe pollution. The 70 prominent ghats of the Ganga in the city lie ravaged. Waste, sewage, trash, food, and human and animal remains are thoughtlessly tossed into it. Adding to this is the damage caused by 60 million litres of industrial waste and the municipal sewage of Patna that's pumped into it daily.
The Nitish government is now working on staving off what seems like an inevitable environmental tragedy. State urban development minister Prem Kumar has said that the sewage network and sewage treatment plants (STPs) to clean the river are to be constructed under the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) at an estimated cost of Rs 330 crore in Patna, Begusarai, Buxar, Hajipur and Munger. The sewage network and the STPs would clean the sewerage water generated by these towns and the treated water of designated standards would be discharged into the Ganga.
The state government has also set out to match Mumbai with its own version of the Marine Drive. The 21. 5 km Ganga Path, coming up in Patna by June 2015, will be one of the country's biggest public-private-partnership projects at an estimated cost of Rs 2, 234. 46 crore. The driveway has been a dream project for the government since Nitish Kumar's first term.
What held it up so far was the effort to convince the Centre's empowered committee for PPP projects that it would be worth spending so much on a project "just for decongesting Patna traffic". The state government eventually pushed it through on the ground that it would "decongest the traffic load from five national highways passing through Patna;decongesting city traffic is only a happy coincidence".
Eight construction companies, including Gammon, Nagarjun and Reliance, have shown keenness to construct the proposed 40-km driveway said sources in the Bihar State Road Development Corporation. "The Ganga Path will have a pan-Bihar significance. It will be an arterial route for those using five national highways connected to Patna, " said the CM after it was sanctioned.
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