“Today Ma Ganga is calling us, her children, to make the river clean once again,” the then candidate now Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as he filed his nominations for the now historic 2014 Lok Sabha elections at Varanasi.
Ganga has not only been a cradle of human civilisation for thousands of years but even today it supports over 400 million people over a quarter of India’s landmass in its 2,525 km of journey from Gangotri to Diamond Harbour. Yet, industrial waste, untreated sewage, as well as the river being treated as a garbage dump has made it increasingly dirty – while dams built high up in the mountains have almost but ruined the natural flow of the river along with it the ability to cleanse itself.
The plans to clean up Ganga is not new – in fact, the first plan was launched in 1986 and successive Indian governments along with foreign donors have literally pumped in billions of dollars yet the Ganga has become dirtier each and every day. This time it could be very different.
No other Prime Minister in the recent past has demonstrated such sustained interest in cleaning up Ganga. Prime Minister Modi used the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day Speech to call for a holistic plan and urging different ministries to work together not only with each other but also with state governments and the private sector.
The Government of India has launched the Namami Gange project with INR 2037 crores along with a further 100 crores to beautify ghats at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi in the current financial year.
This funding is not adequate but the government is looking beyond the limitations of the public purse to secure resources from international governments, financing organisations as well as seeking funds from Global Indians to support this cause.
What Prime Minister Modi and his government offers is a comprehensive plan. It has asked a consortium of 7 IITs to develop a long term plan – in the meantime, New Delhi has decided to take up certain “no regret steps” to ensure the Ganga project moves towards a sustainable future. These include:
i) Nirmal Dhara- ensuring sustainable municipal sewage management
• Project prioritization in coordination with Ministry of Urban Development.
• Incentive for states to take up projects on Ganga Main-stem by providing an additional share of central grants for sewerage infrastructure.
• Uniform standards for both MoUD scheme and Namami Gange programme, 10 years mandatory O&M by the same service provider at par with NGRBA programme and PPP, Mandatory reuse of treated water
• Expanding coverage of sewerage infrastructure in 118 urban habitations on banks of Ganga- estimated cost by MoUD is Rs 51000 Crores
(ii) Nirmal Dhara- managing sewage from Rural Areas
• Mo DWS scheme for all Ganga bank Gram Panchayts (1632) free from open defecation by 2022, at a cost of Rs 1700 Crores as central share
(iii) Nirmal Dhara- managing Industrial discharge
• Making ZLD mandatory
• Rationalized water tariff to encourage reuse
• Real time water quality monitoring
(iv) Aviral Dhara
• Enforcing River Regulatory Zones on Ganga Banks
• Rational agricultural practices, efficient irrigation methods
• Restoration and conservation of wetlands
(v) Ensuring ecological rejuvenation by conservation of aquatic life and biodiversity
(vi) Promotion of Tourism and Shipping in a rational and sustainable manner
(vii) Knowledge Management on Ganga through Ganga Knowledge Centre
As part of the commitment to the mission, a Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) has been established to attract private contributions and to increase people’s participation from across the country and abroad.
One of the key reasons Ganga needs to be cleaned up is that it costs the nation billions more to live dirty and in the long run it is much cheaper to live cleaner. This mission requires support from all and each and every Global Indian is urged to contribute which is not only beneficial for the nation but a great opportunity to be part of transformation of India.