Varanasi district officials form panel to look into algae infestation of river Ganga

By Express News Service
VARANASI: The Varanasi district administration has formed a committee to probe into the algal spread in Ganga, which has turned green due to the invasion. What is surprising about the panel is that there is not even one river engineering, environmental or phycology (algae related science) expert on it. This despite the fact that Varanasi is home to the premier Banaras Hindu University, whose Department of Botany and School of Biotechnology for years have pioneered phycology research globally.

Varanasi district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma had constituted a committee comprising five administrative, police and pollution control board officers. On Tuesday, the committee voyaged from Varanasi to Mirzapur, collecting samples of the green algae infested water. The committee has been asked by the Varanasi district magistrate to submit its report by June 10.

The algae infestation of the river’s water is not only noticeable in the ancient city, but also upstream in Mirzapur and Prayagraj districts. 

“I have been bathing in Ganga since childhood, but do not remember such algae invasion. This is serious and should be probed by scientists and not police or administrative officials,” said 46-year-old Dinesh Shankar Dubey, whose organisation Gangotri Seva Samiti holds the world famous Ganga Arti on Dashwashamedh Ghat.

According to Prof Ashok Kumar, senior phycologist and emeritus professor at the School of Biotechnology, BHU, “This is the first time this is happening. It could be due to Microcystis, but it needs to be probed. The development assumes significance as such algae never bloom in running water. Not only does the origin of the algae need to be studied, but the samples also need to be tested for possible toxicity.”

Importantly, a team of researchers led by Kumar has spent three decades researching algae in the waterbodies of Varanasi, which is also famous for its kunds (ponds). It was a team of researchers led by Kumar that had traced presence of toxic compounds in microcystis algae in two major ponds — Laxmi Kund and Durga Kund — which was poisonous for human and animals. The findings were published in reputable international journals. Meanwhile, a city-based advocate has moved the National Green Tribunal over the issue.