Value the knowledge of the Ganga’s riverine communities for river’s development

  • The National Council of Applied Economic Research recently conducted a study, titled, Livelihood and Health Challenges of Riverine Communities of the River Ganga, in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s Tata Centre for Development to explore the social & economic engagement of the riverine communities on the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the launch of the Namami Gange Clean-up programme with a budget of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>20,000 crore during 2015–2020.(PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the launch of the Namami Gange Clean-up programme with a budget of 20,000 crore during 2015–2020.(PTI)
Published on Mar 03, 2022 03:09 PM IST
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ByNational Council of Applied Economic Research

A large section of the population living in the Ganga river basin still depends on the river for daily use activities and livelihood. Hence, the cleaning of the Ganga river’s water and making it safe for use remains a major goal for policymakers. Towards this end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the launch of the Namami Gange Clean-up programme with a budget of 20,000 crore during 2015–2020. However, the National Green Tribunal stated in 2017 that “not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far.” In this context, this NCAER study attempted to examine the quality of the Ganga river’s water at selected stretches of the river in Uttar Pradesh (Narora and Unnao) and West Bengal (Jangipur and Tribeni) during 2019-20. Further, it assessed the inter-linkages between pollution in the Ganga river water and the livelihood of users of the river by analysing their socio-economic profiles.

The conventional monitoring of river water is done by collecting water samples from specific locations on the river and analysing the samples in a laboratory. This location and time-specific measurement provides only a partial picture of a river’s health since the factors affecting water quality can vary greatly by location and time. In comparison, continuous, in-situ water quality monitoring systems provide real-time data that not only measures the river’s health but also provides the basis for significant riverine research. The continuous, in-situ data collection for the Ganga was undertaken in two phases across four upstream and downstream locations in the two states, breaking away from the conventional ways of measuring water quality. Such data makes possible in-depth socio-economic studies on the implications of river water pollution on the health and livelihood of riverine communities, as well as the economic costs of river water pollution.

For this pioneering Water-to-Cloud study—meaning time-stamped and geo-tagged data from the water being shared on the cloud for further mathematical analysis of pollution spread, the sources of pollution, and for interpolating sparse data—a TCD team mapped water quality using multiple, submersible, automated sensors attached to a boat that would sail at different times of the day on a pre-defined route to gather high-resolution, spatially and temporally varying, water data. Dynamic mapping of river water quality using this high-frequency spatial and temporal data can help understand how it changes with the weather, pollution, fishing, and general use, and can help pinpoint pollution sources accurately and ensure regulatory compliance. The data makes possible powerful visualisation through heatmaps to pinpoint pollution, control infectious diseases, and identify effective sanitation interventions.

The NCAER team complemented TCD’s cyberphysical sensor network by collecting data on the health and livelihoods of the Ganga’s riverine communities using household interviews, focus group discussions, and participatory rural appraisal approaches. The NCAER team also used contingent valuation techniques to understand the willingness of these communities to participate in the Ganga’s rejuvenation.

This NCAER study recommends the need to formally recognise the communities settled on river banks as part of the riverine ecosystem and to synchronise their local ecological knowledge with scientific knowledge for better water monitoring and control techniques. These communities should be integrated into river development and alternative skilling programmes to enhance their livelihood opportunities. The report recommends the establishment of cooperatives in riverine villages, recruitment of Ganga Praharis or Ganga guards to protect the river from exploitation by unscrupulous elements, and the promotion of decentralised regulation to prevent fishing malpractices. The NCAER study found that riverine communities were willing to join larger development efforts to improve and preserve the quality of the Ganga’s water.

 

(The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) recently conducted a study, titled, Livelihood and Health Challenges of Riverine Communities of the River Ganga, in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s Tata Centre for Development (TCD) to explore the social and economic engagement of the riverine communities on the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.)

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Wednesday, July 06, 2022