India’s 2,510-kilometer Ganges – or Ganga – River provides spiritual and
cultural sustenance to the half a billion people who dwell along its banks and
is holy “Mother Ganga” to most Hindus, yet its waters are among the most
polluted in the world.
“Many people say Ganga was brought to this earth
for a special purpose,” Prof. Vinod Tare, of the Indian Institute of Technology
Kanpur, said in Tel Aviv on Monday. Its rehabilitation must therefore occur in a
delicate fashion that will not change these special qualities, he
Tare, along with colleagues from various Indian academic
institutions, was addressing Israeli water experts, innovators and investors who
have expressed interest in becoming involved with the river’s decontamination,
at a seminar held at the Israel Export Institute.
In partnership with
India’s Environment and Forest Ministry, teams from seven institutes – including
Tare’s – are creating a plan for the river’s environmental management and to
restore its “wholesomeness,” according to Tare.
The river touches
portions of Nepal and Bangladesh, along with the 11 Indian states along its
banks, and is generally divided into three sections – the Upper Ganga, the
Middle Ganga and the Lower Ganga, Tare explained.
The middle section is
the most polluted, due to human actions, while the upper portion is the cleanest
and contains a wide range of biodiversity and fragile ecosystems. In the lower
segment, sediment flowing in from Nepalese tributaries cause various problems,
By rehabilitating the river – a project he estimated would
take about 25 to 30 years and about $20 billion – the team hopes to ensure
continuous water flow, entirely unpolluted waters with “zero discharge” and
recycling of wastewater.
“We believe that it is going to be a very long
journey,” Tare said.
Many kinds of waste pour into the river – from old
cities, new cities, village dwellings, paper pulp, distilleries, tanneries and
agriculture – and each type of waste will demand a different technology and
strategy. There is a huge amount of fecal coliform in the water, particularly
during the rainy season, according to Tare. In conjunction with cleaning up the
river, Tare said he hopes to encourage sustainable agriculture, and he reminded
his audience that even a 10 percent increase in agricultural efficiency around
this giant river would produce an enormous improvement in its water
“We have not been doing a good job at managing water resources,”
said Prof. A. K. Gosain, head of the civil engineering department at the Indian
Institute of Technology Dehli. “This is not a one-time job, there has to be a
strategy that is put in place.”
The situation has become so bad that the
contamination is seeping into the groundwater, Gosain said.
“We need to
really look at how we can use the latest scientific approach to manage this very
precious scientific resource,” he said, adding that the government bodies and
groups involved with the project must work more cohesively together.
scientific approaches are where Israeli water innovators could help in the
project, the Indian experts said. Already, 15 countries have become involved
with the plan, according to Sanmit Ahuja of ETI Dynamics, a United Kingdombased
firm that focuses on “delivering economic impact to high growth and emerging
“The fact that we are here today means there’s a lot of desire
in Israel to participate in this mega-monster project,” Ahuja said.
project demands various types of sewage and sewer systems, solid waste
management, industrial effluents treatment, information technology, research and
innovation, Ahuja said.
But he warned that in such a huge country, with
853 languages and dialects, companies cannot just “drop [their technologies]
into the Indian ecosystem,” and instead must come in with an entire economic
package and business plan.
To help make this easier for smaller
companies, the Indian experts will meet with several Israeli officials on
Tuesday, to discuss creating a unique interface through the Israeli government
for firms that would like to participate in the project, Ahuja added.
not be discouraged by the size and the time frame of this project,” Oded Distel,
director of the Labor, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Israel NEWTech told the
Israeli attendees. “It’s a challenge, but at the same time it’s a huge
opportunity, and I think that we have a very good framework both in India, here
and in Washington that can support the efforts being done by all of
Because of the size of the project, “all kinds of Israeli
technologies can be relevant” to cleaning up the river, Distel told The
after the seminar.
“I would say that it would be wise to
start with the most painful or crucial elements on their agenda – industrial
wastewater treatment, elements of modeling and bringing smart solutions into
these areas, and then the entire scope of water management,” he
While it is certainly true that companies involved will need to
have solid business models in addition to great technology, small firms should
not shy away from participating, according to Distel.
“What we’re trying
to do is to create the platform for the Israeli companies so that it will be
easier for them and they’ll get the full support from the governments here and
in India,” he said. “The challenge is to bring companies that focus mostly on
the technology and to open their minds to think of all the other angles of this
deal and to engage them in a process that is going to take some
One such Israeli company that is interested in participating is
the small, Moshav Zipori-based Ayala Water and Ecology, which employs
constructed wetlands and natural biological systems to clean water and soils. An
advantage of its system is that it is built and integrated within local
communities and existing nature and does not require any outside know-how or
manpower to operate, said Tamar Bodek, head of research and development at
Ayala. The company is already is operating its systems in the Indian city
of Hyderabad and has a few other Indian projects in the pipeline, as well as
ventures throughout Israel, Chile and France.
“I think this room is
filled with people with wonderful technologies, but they require a lot of human
maintenance,” Bodek told the Post.
Ayala executives know that it will be
a difficult process for a small company aiming to dive into an enormous
“We know we are going to face huge companies, and it won’t be
easy,” Ayala CEO and founder Eli Cohen said. “We are trying to join a big
company – local Israeli or maybe Indian – and do it together.
the confidence that this is part of the solution,” he said.