- The Union government spent more than Rs 13,000 crore on cleaning the Ganga since 2014, with Uttar Pradesh receiving the largest outlay among states, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is learnt to have informed the National Ganga Council.
- As per the details available, the Centre has released a total of Rs 13,709.72 crore to the NMCG from the financial year 2014-15 till October 31, 2022
- United Nations Recognizes Namami Gange Initiative As One Of The Top 10 World Restoration Flagships To Revive The Natural World.
Significance of Ganga
- The Ganges River carries nutrient rich sediment as it flows, depositing fertile soil along its shores.
- This has allowed civilizations to develop and thrive along the waterway for centuries.
- The river is used for fishing, irrigation, and bathing, and it is worshiped in the Hindu religion as the Mother Ganga.
- The Ganga has medicinal properties that can treat skin infections. These properties come due to medicinal plants on the path of Ganga
- The Ganga is very rich in minerals and has bacteriophages which kill the bacteria.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)
- NMCG is responsible for implementation of the government’s ambitious Namami Gange programme
- NMCG is registered as a society in 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
- The aims of NMCG is to ensure effective control of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral coordination for comprehensive planning and management.
- Further, to maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.
- About 1,100 km of the Ganga’s 2,525-km length falls in Uttar Pradesh.
- The expenditure to Uttar Pradesh makes up around two-thirds of the budget allocated for the programme.
Namami Gange program
- The government had launched Namami Gange in 2014-15 for a period up to March 31, 2021 to “rejuvenate” the Ganga and its tributaries. The programme was later extended for another 5 years till March 31, 2026.
- With a total budgetary outlay of Rs.20,000 crore.
- A corpus of Rs 198.14 crore (as of March 31, 2017) was available in the Clean Ganga Fund – It is a fund under which entities or a commoner can contribute for the Ganga clean up.
Challenges of the program:
- Development projects
- 16 existing, 14 ongoing and 14 proposed hydroelectric projects on the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda river basins have turned the upper stretch of the Ganga “ecological deserts” – report published by Wildlife Institute of India in May 2018
- Sewage treatment
- As far as sewage infrastructure projects are concerned, 68 projects were sanctioned after the Namami Gange was approved by the cabinet and only six were completed till August.
- Restoring the flow
- If the flow in the river is maintained it can solve the problem of 60-80 per cent of organic pollutants
- IIT-Kharagpur said – baseflow amount of the river has decreased by 56 per cent in 2016 as compared to the 1970s.
- The decrease in flow has led to an increase in groundwater extraction for various uses.
- Sludge control
- The objective of making villages lying in the Ganga basin to be ODF was to reduce the faecal coliform levels in the Ganga
- About 180 MLD sludge would be generated in five Ganga basin states when they become ODF
- While the BOD of sewage is 150-300 mg/l, that of faecal sludge would be 15,000-30,000 mg/l
- poor financial management
- CAG December 2017 report said – Only eight to 63 per cent of the funds were utilised during 2014-15 to 2016-17 for the river clean-up programme
- NMCG could not utilise any amount out of the Clean Ganga Fund and the entire amount was lying in banks due to non-finalisation of action plan.
- Cost overruns
- The UP SAAP 2016 says that the Ganga basin towns would require Rs 5,794 crore just for the creation of sewerage networks in the state—more than one-fourth of the entire outlay of Namami Gange.
- Governance glitches
- No detail is available as to how or whether water resources and other ministries are functioning in coordination for better convergence.
- The Empowered Task Force led by Union minister of water resources has met only thrice; while it was supposed to meet once every three months.
Suggestions for future:
- Establish a 4-battalion Ganga EcoTask Force to spread awareness about pollution and protecting the river.
- Watershed management approach – a report by Ganga Rejuvenation Basin Management Programme (GRBMP) says that the whole river basin—that is all the states coming under the main stem of Ganga and its tributaries—must come under the ambit of the programme.
- Promote only decentralised sewage treatment plants (dSTP) at the colony level.
- Reuse treated wastewater for irrigation and empty into natural drains.
- For all upcoming cities, smart cities and for those, whose master plans are not in place, earmark land for dSTPs. dSTPs below 10 MLD should be encouraged and incentivised under urban development schemes and real estate development.
- The existing and planned STPs need to be verified on efficiency, reliability and technology parameters by independent agencies (tech-efficiency-reliability verification).
- Develop and restore local storages (ponds, lakes, wetlands) as permanent solutions to both floods and droughts.
- Only 10 per cent of water received during monsoon rainfall is harvested.
- Bring back glory to all natural drains that empty into rivers, and transform and rejuvenate them into healthy water bodies — they have been converted to sewage carrying drains by our municipalities and planning bodies.
- Start restoring lower order streams and smaller tributaries in the Ganga Basin.
- The Ganga has eight major tributaries (Yamuna, Son, Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghra, Gandak, Kosi and Damodar).
- Identify, define and protect ‘river-corridors’ as areas for no cement-concrete structures — know that rivers have been formed after thousands of years of nature’s work.
- Map the entire looped length of each and every tributary of the Ganga and correct the land records – This will ensure that active flood plains and river-corridors are free from encroachments.
- Restore base flows through groundwater recharge
- Groundwater contributes to base flows in the order of 40- 55 per cent
- Define the desired ecological flow regime(s) in the Ganga main stem and its tributaries to allow the rejuvenation of the river.
- According to the Central Water Commission, all the existing hydroelectric projects have provision for releasing the mandated environmental-flow through controlled gated spillways or water ways.
- Old dams should be decommissioned once irrigation efficiencies are improved.
- Evolve new and innovative ways to generate sufficient revenues for operation and maintenance (O&M) of water and wastewater infrastructure through pricing and valuing water.
- Cleaning of the Ganga needs a strategy where the NGC has to find effective solutions to the challenges that the previous programmes have failed to address.
- This would entail addressing untreated waste that flows into the river, restoring the flow of the river, sludge management in Ganga basin towns, cost overruns in execution of projects and governance glitches.
- Tourism Ministry to develop comprehensive plan for developing tourism circuits along the Ganga in line with Arth Ganga, organic farming and cultural activities; exhibitions and fairs have been planned in 75 towns along the main stem of the river.
Source: Indians express