Ganges River Current Affairs - 2020

Ash Barges are increasing Concerns of Ecology of Sundarbans

The Fisheries organization and environmental experts flag serious threats to the ecology of Indian Sundarbans as the fly ash filled barges are sinking and capsizing in Hooghly river.


In April 2020, two fly ash filled barges sank within a range of 30 kilometres of Hooghly river. Around 100 Bangladeshi barges each weighing 600 tonnes to 800 tonnes traverse through Indian waters. They carry fly ash from Indian thermal power station to Bangladesh where the fly ashes are used in manufacturing cement.

What is the issue?

The vessels that sunk in the river are threatening the local fishes and other aquatic biodiversity. This in turn is affecting lives of 1000s of fishermen.


Most of the barges that are carrying the fly ashes are old and are ill maintained. They often cause accidents.

Hooghly River

The Hooghly river is a distributary of the Ganges. River Ganga splits into Hooghly and River Padma at Murshidabad. River Padma flows towards Bangladesh and River Hooghly flows south into West Bengal.

The Farakka Barrage diverts waters of the Ganges to the city of Murshidabad. It also supplies water to River Hooghly according to the agreement signed between India and Bangladesh.

Fly Ash

The Fly Ash is a by product of coal combustion. Fly ash has several useful applications. It includes concrete production, embankments, fly-ash pellets, road subbase construction, cement clinker production, brick production, etc.

Lock Down improves water quality of Ganges

The Lock Down imposed in the country on March 22, 2020 has improved air quality and water quality. According to CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), 40 million litres of waste water enters water bodies.

The Ganges

The water pollution of a river is measured based on Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD). The Ganga has become dump yard for industrial waste and untreated sewage. Since 1985, several schemes and programmes have been launched to clean Ganga starting with Ganga Action Plan I. Later in 2015, the biggest initiative Namami Gange was launched.

After COVID-19

After lock down, the real time monitoring data from the CPCB say that out of 36 monitoring points of the Ganges, 27 are now clean and suitable for wildlife and fisheries propagation.

The dissolved Oxygen values have reported to have improved in the cities like Varanasi where the pollution peaked. The improvement has been from 6.8 mg/litre as compared to 3.8 mg/litre before lock down.


The major reasons for the improvement in the water quality is that activities such as bathing, tourism, fairs near the ghats were stopped. Also, the major industrial activities around the river were stopped.

Though sewage persists to enter the river, now the situation is different. This is because when sewage effluents get mixed with the industrial effluents, it is highly difficult for the river to assimilate itself.