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With one beaker, Pandey scoops water from the surface of the Ganga; the other he inserts into the cylinder, lowers the apparatus 50cm below the surface, and collects the water there. Like a tour guide, Raja Mani Tiwari, a former engineer at the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam, takes this reporter through the length of Varanasi’s impact on the Ganga. There are 32 point sources of sewage in Varanasi, drains of varying breadth and volume, all part of a sewer network that is, in many parts, 300 years old. But the perception that the plants are not working at all is, Singh says, untrue, and he brandishes the log sheet of the Bhagwanpur plant for the period 24 June-24 July.
The Dinapur facility, taking in 80 mld, is spread over roughly 50 acres outside Varanasi; sewage travels 7km to be treated there. Ramesh Singh estimates that a sophisticated plant costs Rs1 crore for every mld, so Dinapur is a significant investment. Two new projects, city officials say, will add 237 mld of capacity to Varanasi’s sewage works. With the launching of the Ganga Action Plan, there were hopes that the dirt would be a thing of the past. The box holds two sterilized glass beakers, a funny-looking metal cylinder with a hole in its lid, and two brown bottles of chemical reagent.
While Kanpur and Allahabad ruin the river with quantities of industrial effluents, Varanasi relies entirely on domestic sewage from an urban population that has risen from a million in 1991 to 1.7 million today. He begins upstream, at the Nagwa Nala—an open drain that looks from afar like a miniature waterfall. To divert some of this sewage to two treatment plants, five pumping stations have been erected on various ghats—stubby pink towers that have been painted with murals of Shiva in a dubious attempt to blend them into the cityscape. Near the spurt of untreated sewage are crowds of people, bathing and praying and drinking the water around them.
It shows an average inflow of 10.04 mld (a million litres above capacity, in fact), an average daily power deficit of more than eight hours, of which seven-and-a-half were regained with generators.


The plant breaks down sewage with the help of bacteria, separates sludge from liquid and extracts methane. But these plants may have come up earlier, Ramesh Singh says, if not for the debate surrounding them.
Pandey may set off by boat for another spot on the river, or he may choose to work right there.
The methane could, in theory, help power the plant at all times, if combined with diesel in the four dual-fuel WH Allen generators. Dinapur fed the fields around it till two years ago, when stories of smelly vegetable harvests and black well water began to circulate. But, at least in Uttar Pradesh, not as early as devotees had hoped.The government agencies responsible for executing the plan have got entangled in two law suits with private contractors over the awarding of con tracts for sewage treatment plants in Kanpur and Allahabad.
Even in 1986, when the Ganga Action Plan was launched, Varanasi generated 147 million litres per day (mld) of sewage; today, it edges close to 300 mld.
Global tenders were to be floated inviting bids from companies to construct them.The project was to be executed by Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam. And the Delhi-based Ganga Project Directorate (GPD), a wing of the Central Ganga Authority, was to monitor the projects.
The World Bank would provide loans to the Uttar Pradesh Government through the Government of India.Sewage flowing into Ganga at AllahabadIn July 1987 the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam invited tenders for the 130 million-litres-a-day sewage plant for Kanpur. Tenders were to be submitted in two parts - a technical bid and a financial bid - separately.
The financial bid would be considered only if the technical bid was in order.Six Indian firms submitted tenders for the project by November 17, 1987.
The relative position of the three bids was later described in a chart sent by the Jal Nigam to the GPD. The three firms also submitted bids for treatment plants using two other techniques - with a filter press and with centrifuges.


Firm 'B' hadquoted the price for mandatory imports by converting pound sterling into rupees.
In doing this it had violated the tender rules which stated that expenditure to be incurred in other countries should be indicated in the currencies of those countries.
The Foreign Exchange Regulations Act 1973 states that Indian bidders cannot quote rates in foreign exchange nor be paid in foreign exchange directly.Firm 'B' made a representation to the GPD arguing these points.
When this had no effect, it filed a writ in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court challenging the tender award. The court has passed an interim order asking the Jal Nigam to consider the offer of the petitioner and send a fresh recommendation to the World Bank.The contract for the Allahabad sewage plant ran into similar problems.
Though the Jal Nigam had named firm'13' as the lowest bidder, the GPD consulted the World Bank for advice to take a final decision.
The ban k declined but said that if the directorate failed to see a clear winner, it could go in for limited rebidding.Following this response, the directorate asked the Jal Nigam to retender the contract. A fresh tender was issued on October 18,1988, after which firm 'B' filed a writ petition in the Allahabad bench of the high court which has, in an interim order, asked the Jal Nigam not to open the new tenders until the case has been disposed of.With the hearings of both cases pending in court, the progress of the Ganga Action Plan stands seriously delayed.
From 1990 onwards, the World Bank will have to be paid a service charge of 1 per cent on its loan which would mean a considerable loss of foreign exchange to the country.The pumping station in VaranasiMeanwhile, the construction of the sewage treatment plants in Hardwar and Varanasi has begun. Hardwar is the first major town through which the Ganga passes in Uttar Pradesh while Varanasi is the last.



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