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Posted at: Oct 12, 2015, 12:25 AM; last updated: Oct 11, 2015, 11:28 PM (IST)

Ramdev’s Divya Pharmacy, the polluter

Ramdev’s Divya Pharmacy, the polluter
Effluents from a factory at Divya Pharmacy in Haridwar city flow into the Ganga. Tribune photo: Rameshwar Gaur

Sandeep Rawat

Tribune News Service

Haridwar, October 11

Ashrams and dharamshalas dot twin pilgrim cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh situated on the banks of the Ganga. A large number of saints, students, devotees and workers stay in these ashrams and dharamshalas and pilgrims visit the two cities regularly to have the darshan and a dip in the holy river.

However, it is ironical that these very places of religious significance are proving to be the nemesis of the Ganga. Untreated sewage and domestic waste from these ashrams and dharamshalas are being dumped into the river. Effluents from the factory at Divya Pharmacy, belonging to Yog Guru Ramdev, in the Indira industrial estate in Haridwar city, flows directly into the Ganga near Rishikul. Similarly, the Parmarth ashram of former Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Swami Chinmayanand, situated at Neel Dhara on the Saptsarovar Ganga bank, doesn’t have a sewage treatment plant.

The Divya Sewa Mission ashram, where Union Minister for Ganga Rejuvenation and Water Resources Uma Bharti stays during her visit to Haridwar, had a sewer line directly pouring untreated sewage into the Ganga at Neel Dhara. However, on Uma''s intervention the sewer line was closed after she was apprised of the situation. The Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board has said ashrams and dharmashalas account for a major share of sewage discharge into the Ganga. It has also filed a report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) saying 17 of the 22 major ashrams in Haridwar and Rishikesh are directly dumping untreated sewage into the Ganga.

Even a consortium of premier technological institutes such as the Indian Institute of Technology in its report submitted to the Ganga River Basin Management Plan has stated that ashrams and dharamshalas are discharging sewage into the Ganga.

The district administration and the Haridwar Municipal Corporation have failed to take corrective measures or stern action against the owners of the ashrams at fault. The Haridwar Mayor says they have urged all ashrams and dharamshalas and their spiritual heads to install sewage treatment plants, for which technical guidance will be provided to them.

Social activist JP Baduni, who has filed several applications under the Right to Information Act regarding pollution in the Ganga and bringing transparency in religious bodies, says when saints, spiritual gurus, Maha Mandaleshwar and Mahants do not have a sense of guilt about polluting the Ganga, how can the sorry condition of the sacred river in Rishikesh and Haridwar be improved.

Renowned ashrams at Muni-ki-Reti, Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh, Satpsarovar, Bhoopatwala, Khadkhadi and even at Har-ki-Pauri are pouring sewage directly into the Ganga. All this when the government and the civic body provide various concessions to ashrams and dharamshalas. More than 200 ashrams and dharamshalas in Haridwar and Rishikesh do not have sewage treatment or waste recycling plants.

After bhandara (common kitchen), which are organised on festive occasions or after religious discourses in these institutions, one can see there polythene bags, waste and leftovers, which ultimately move to the Ganga.

Dharamshala Raksha Samiti president Vikas Tiwari says dharamshalas have limited funds and hence the government should give them benefits and concessions for installing sewage treatment plants and disposing of garbage from their premises.

Uma Bharti says participation of people is needed to clean the Ganga, as the government can’t accomplish the task on its own.

Several other major ashrams of renowned spiritual gurus do not have a proper drainage facility, forget a sewage treatment plant.

Chief Town Officer Vipra Trivedi admits that the Municipal Corporation has been lenient towards those polluting the Ganga. However, now following the National Green Tribunal directives, the ashrams and dharamshalas, which are polluting the Ganga, are being identified and will be penalised.

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