VARANASI: Narendra Modi’s pledge on the bank of the Ganga here on May 17, 2014 that he would serve ‘Maa Ganga’ to end its miseries, is yet to materialize. Evaluating his government’s one-year performance on the scale of Ganga cleaning, most environmentalists and river scientists are disappointed to note the condition of the holy river one year down the line.
Though the Modi government came up with Namami Gange programme, an integrated Ganga conservation mission with a budget of Rs 2,037 crore in the Union Budget, nothing remarkable has been achieved, particularly in PM’s own constituency. This has been proved by the Centre’s admission before the Supreme Court in September that the water quality of the Ganga at Varanasi and Allahabad was most unfit even for bathing purpose.
“Whatever is being done in the name of river cleaning is improper and far removed from reality. As the pollution managing potential of each place is different due to the river’s morphology and dynamics, pollution managing potential of various sewage treatment plants (STPs) has been wrongly quantified,” said river scientist and former professor of civil engineering at Banaras Hindu University Prof Udai Kant Chowdhary.
According to him, pollutants in different forms such as domestic effluent from mega cities, towns and villages reach the river through various sources. Also, micro and macro level industries discharge pollutants directly and indirectly into the Ganga. “Even now, pollutants from all these sources are being discharged without conceptualizing the idea that the river is a body system in which all locations are different in structure, shape, size, orientation, etc,” he said.
Seconding his opinion, BHU environmentalist B. D. Tripathi said: “It is true that some ghats are getting a cleaner look, but the condition of the Ganga has not improved. There is an urgent need for corrective measures to make the river pollution free. Tripathi is also an expert member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
Similar was the opinion of another environmentalist Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the president of Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), an NGO working for the cause of Ganga for over three decades. “The basic need of the Ganga, i.e., improvement in its water quality, is being overlooked,” said Mishra, who is also mahanth of the famous Sankatmochan Temple. – Times of India, 23 May 2015
NEW DELHI: One year may not be enough for him to show results as far as his pet Ganga cleaning project is concerned, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to demonstrate substantial progress on the issue when his government goes to the polls at the end of its term.
A timeline for this complex assignment, discussed in the Cabinet last week, indicates that the Centre wants to stop completely untreated water flowing into the river by March, 2019 and will possibly arm authorities with a law having provisions to penalize polluters by that time.
The Union water resources and Ganga rejuvenation ministry has been in discussion with other ministries including urban development, environment and law over four different drafts which talk about possibility of framing a law with objectives of abating pollution and maintaining sustainable cleanliness.
Converting the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) into a commission under a Parliament Act is the most possible course if, at all, the government finally decides to opt for a legal provision to provide teeth to its task of Ganga cleaning in a much more effective manner. The NGRBA is a key central body which monitors planning and execution of all schemes of Ganga rejuvenation in coordination with five states including Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Though making a law with criminal provisions is not priority at the moment when the government still has to create adequate anti-pollution infrastructure, the idea continues to be part of the official discourse on Ganga cleaning.
A proposed law on this matter was discussed as one of the key agenda of the high-level review meeting on Ganga rejuvenation in March when Modi called for an “uncompromising mission-mode approach” to stop further pollution of the country’s national river. – Times of India, 18 May 2015
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