Holy Ganga- the river which has been bestowed with abundant funds, yet remains a toxic cocktail. The Central Government has allocated an additional amount of Rs 200 crore apart from the budget amount reserved for the Ganga cleaning project. But with these funds will River Ganga be rejuvenated?
Since 1986 various governments at the Centre have been on the mission of ´Clean Ganga´ and till date have spent Rs 20,000 crore on this project. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government is no different from any other government in this regard and has sanctioned Rs 2,100 crore for the new ´Ganga Action Plan´, that is Rs 600 crore more than the revised Budget of 2014-15.
However, despite being one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the project has been moving at snail´s pace. So, the Water Resources Ministry has come to the scene and has planned to add Rs 200 crore to the Action Plan kitty, a National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) official informs.
¨The ministry has added Rs 200 crore to the Action Plan kitty for getting bio-remediation in order to keep a tab on pollution in the Ganga. However, the new estimates for the Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) along the river are Rs 50,000 crore,¨ the official says.
Phase I and phase II (ending in March 2014) of the Ganga Action Plan expenses amounted to Rs 986.34 crore. However, a parliamentary standing committee had estimated Rs 40,000 crore for the plan.
Implementation is the key
The new action plan for Ganga has not been able to achieve its short-term goals like stopping open naalahs from falling into the river, restricting industrial and chemical discharge into the river, and so on.
¨Rejuvenation of Ganga has just remained a mere slogan. In reality, no concrete action on the ground level has taken place. The Government has abundant funds for the river rejuvenation but it lacks proper ecological planning and commitment towards the cause,¨ says B D Tripathi, Expert Member, NGRBA.
While elaborating, he explains that the focus of the Government´s plan of cleaning the river is wrong. ¨The fund utilisation should be concentrated towards waste water treatment and solid waste management as it will help to increase the flow of the water. The river-front development, like the government had done in Sabarmati, will kill the beauty of the holy river,¨ emphasises Tripathi.
According to the NGRBA official, the government has so far sanctioned a total of 72 projects in 47 towns through which the Ganga river passes. Amounting to Rs 4,607.82 crore under NGRBA Programme, including Externally Aided Projects (EAP) of Rs 2,626.64 crore with the assistance of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank, the funds will be utilised for laying of sewage networks, treatment plants, and development of river front projects in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand.
¨Though the concerned states have received the funds, there has been no proper agenda laid or steps taken on the ground level. The funds allocated for cleaning the Ganga have not been used effectively. Meanwhile, the five states through which the river passes are either unable to maintain or effectively plan for proper sewage treatment plants,¨ says KJ Nath, Member, NGRBA.
A report by CPCB suggests that measured discharge of waste water into the Ganga is as much as 3,364 million litres per day, which is 100 per cent higher than what the government has estimated. ¨In the last few months, we have seen lot of talks but little of comprehensive planning and action taken,¨ explains the NGRBA member. At the end, the need of the hour is a dispassionate analysis of the past programmes and projects, utilisation of the assets already created, identifying the gaps and making a comprehensive action plan for prevention of pollution from municipal discharge. To treat all the municipal waste water discharge in the Ganga up to tertiary level and treat the industrial effluents to the standard prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) will take substantial time and the fund requirement can be as high as Rs 20,000 crore. The NGRBA had appointed a consortium, involving seven IITs, to design a comprehensive Ganga Basin Management Programme in 2010. The final report was submitted in 2013.
¨Just piping in more funds for the river clean up will not be a solution. The sewage inflow to the river should be stopped,¨ Nath concludes.
Projects proposed under Namami Gange:
a)Ensuring sustainable municipal sewage management,
b)Managing sewage from rural areas,
c)Managing industrial discharge
Aviral Dhara -
a)Ensuring ecological rejuvenation by conservation of aquatic life and biodiversity
b)Promotion of Tourism and Shipping in a rational and sustainable manner
C)Knowledge Management on Ganga through Ganga Knowledge Centre
Funds for laying of sewage networks, treatment plants, development of river fronts