PM inaugurates 6 mega projects in Uttarakhand…
…terms Namami Gange Mission as the largest integrated river conservation mission which not only aims at the cleanliness of River Ganga but also focuses on comprehensive upkeep of the National River
Arunima Sen Gupta
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated six mega development projects in Uttarakhand under the Namami Gange Mission through video conference. Modi also inaugurated the Ganga Avalokan Museum, the first of its kind on the River Ganga at Haridwar. He released a book “Rowing Down the Ganges” and the new logo for the Jal Jeevan Mission. The Prime Minister also unveiled the ‘Margadarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission’ (Guidelines for the Village Panchayats and Water Committees) on the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion the Prime Minister said the Jal Jeevan Mission aims at providing every rural household in the country with piped-water connection. Modi said that the new logo of the Mission shall continue to inspire the need to save every drop of water. Referring to the Margadarshika, the Prime Minister said that they are equally important for the Gram Panchayats, people living in rural areas as well as for the Government machinery. Describing the book “Rowing Down the Ganges” he said it explains in details how the River Ganges stands as a glowing symbol of our Culture, Faith and Heritage. Modi highlighted the importance of keeping the River Ganga clean as it plays a significant role in sustaining the lives of about 50 percent of the country’s population from its origin in Uttarakhand till West Bengal.
He termed the Namami Gange Mission as the largest integrated river conservation mission which not only aims at the cleanliness of River Ganga but also focuses on comprehensive upkeep of the River. Prime Minister said this new thinking and approach had made the River Ganga return back to life. Had the old methods been adopted, the situation would have been equally bad today. Old methods lacked public participation and foresight.
The Prime Minister said the government moved forward with a four pronged strategy to achieve its objective.
First- started laying a network of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) to prevent the waste water from flowing into the Ganges.
Second, The STPs were built by keeping in mind the demands for the next 10 – 15 years.
Third – By making around hundred big towns/cities and five thousand villages along the River Ganga Open Defecation Free (ODF).
And Fourth – By making an all-out effort to stop the pollution in the tributaries of River Ganga.
Modi highlighted the fact that under Namami Gange, projects worth more than Rs 30,000 Crores are either in progress or have been completed. He pointed out that due to these projects the sewage treatment capacity of Uttarakhand has increased 4 times in the last 6 years. The Prime Minister listed the efforts taken to close more than 130 drains in Uttarakhand from flowing into the River Ganga. He referred specially to the Chandreshwar Nagar drain which turned as an eyesore to visitors and rafters at Muni Ki Reti, in Rishikesh. He applauded the closing of the drain and the construction of a four storied STP at Muni Ki Reti.
Prime Minister said that as it was experienced by the pilgrims at Prayagraj Kumbh, the visitors to Haridwar Kumbh would also experience the clean and pure status of the River Ganga at Uttarakhand. Narendra Modi referred to the beautification of the hundreds of ghats at Ganges and the development of a modern riverfront at Haridwar. Prime Minister said the Ganga Avalokan Museum would be a special attraction to pilgrims and it would further enhance the understanding of the heritage associated with Ganga The Prime Minister said apart from the cleanliness of the Ganges, the Namami Gange is focussing on development of the economy and environment of the entire Gangetic belt. He said the Government has made comprehensive plans to promote Organic farming and Ayurvedic farming.
Prime Minister said that the project would also strengthen the Mission Dolphin which was announced on the 15th of August this year. The Prime Minister said owing to fragmentation of work- on an important subject like water- into various ministries and departments, led to lack of clear guidelines & coordination. As a result, problems related to irrigation and drinking water continued to persist. He lamented that even after so many years of independence, piped drinking water has not reached more than 15 crore households in the country. Modi said the Ministry of Jal Shakti was formed to bring in a synergy and give impetus to dealing with these challenges. He said the ministry is now engaged in the mission of ensuring access to piped drinking water to every house in the country. Today, about 1 lakh households are being provided piped water supply connections every day under the Jal Jeevan Mission. He said drinking water connections have been provided to 2 crore families of the country in just 1 year.
The Prime Minister said unlike the previous programmes, Jal Jeevan Mission adopts a bottom to top approach, where the users and Paani Samitis (Water Committees) in the villages envision the whole project from its implementation to maintenance and operation. He said the mission has also ensured that at least 50% of the members of the water committee would be women. He said the Mardarshika Guidelines released today will guide the members of the Water Committee and Gram Panchayats in taking the right decisions. Prime Minister said a special 100-day campaign is being launched on 2nd Oct this year under Jal Jeevan Mission to ensure drinking water connection to every school and Anganwadi in the country. The Prime Minister said the Government has brought in major reforms recently for the farmers, the industrial labour and in the health sector. Modi lamented that those who are opposing these reforms are opposing only for the sake of opposing them. He said those who ruled the country for decades have never cared about empowering the workers, youth, farmers and women of the country. Prime Minister said that these people want the farmers not to sell their produce at a profitable price to anyone and anywhere in the country.
The River Ganga is important not only for its cultural and spiritual significance but also because it hosts more than 40% of the country’s population. Addressing the Indian community at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014, the Prime Minister had said, “If we are able to clean it, it will be a huge help for the 40 per cent population of the country. So, cleaning the Ganges is also an economic agenda.” To translate this vision, the Government launched an integrated Ganga conservation mission called ‘Namami Gange’ to arrest the pollution of Ganga River and revive the river. The Union Cabinet approved the action plan proposed by Centre to spend Rs 20,000 Crores till 2019-2020 on cleaning the river, increasing the budget by four-fold and with 100% central share – a central sector scheme. Recognizing the multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder nature of the Ganga Rejuvenation challenge, efforts have been made to improve the inter-ministerial, and centre-state coordination with increased involvement in preparation of action plan and increased monitoring at central and state levels.
The implementation of the program has been divided into entry-level activities (for immediate visible impact), medium term activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame), and, long-term activities (to be implemented within 10 years). Entry-level activities includes river surface cleaning to address the floating solid wastes; rural sanitation to arrest the pollution (solid & liquid) entering through rural sewage drains and construction of toilets; renovation, modernization, & construction of crematoria that prevents the disposal of un-burnt/ partially burnt bodies in the river; repair, modernization & construction of ghats to improvise the human-river connect. Medium-term activities will focus on arresting the municipal and industrial pollution entering into the river. To address the pollution through municipal sewage, 2500 MLD additional treatment capacity is to be created in next 5 years. Major financial reforms are underway to make the program efficient, accountable, and sustainable in the long term. Hybrid Annuity based Public Private Partnership model for project implementation is currently being considered by the Cabinet. If approved, Special Purpose Vehicle will manage concessionaires in all major cities, market will be developed for treated water, and long term sustainability of assets will be assured.
For managing the industrial pollution, efforts have been initiated to improvise the compliance through better enforcement. Grossly Polluting Industries located along Ganga have been directed to reduce the effluent quality & volume or implement zero-liquid discharge. Action plan for the implementation of these directions by Pollution Control Boards are already prepared and timelines have been assigned for each category of industry with detailed consultations. All the industries have to install real-time on-line effluent monitoring stations.
Apart from these activities, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, and water quality monitoring are also being taken up under the program. Programmes for conservation of key iconic species such as Golden Mahaseer, Dolphins, Ghariyals, Turtles, Otters, etc. have been already initiated. Similarly, under ‘NamamiGange’ 30,000 hectares of land will be afforested for increased recharge of the aquifers, reduced erosion, and improved health of river ecosystem. The afforestation programme is set to begin in 2016. Also, comprehensive water quality monitoring will be done with installation of 113 real-time water quality monitoring stations. Under the long-term, providing adequate flow to the river is envisioned through determination of e-flow, increased water-use efficiency, and improved efficiency of surface irrigation.
It is worth mentioning that cleaning river Ganga is extremely complex due to its socio-economic & cultural importance and yet, exploitation for various uses. Never in the world such a complex program has been implemented and will require participation across sectors and each and every citizen of the country. There are various ways in which each one of us can contribute to the cause of cleaning river Ganga:
• Contribution of funds: Restoring the quality of a river with the length and population as large as that of Ganga requires huge investments. Government has already increased the budget by four-fold but still may not be enough to the requirements. Clean Ganga Fund has been established that provides a platform to all for contributing funds to clean river Ganga.
• Reduce, Reuse and Recovery: Majority of us do not realize that used water and filth of our homes can end up in the rivers if not disposed properly. Sewerage infrastructure is already being constructed by the Government but citizens can reduce the usage of water and generation of waste. Reusing and Recovery of used water and organic waste & plastics can greatly benefit the program.
Lockdown hasn’t cleaned Ganga
Modi government must know the difference between Ganga river being clean and looking clean. The fall in discharge of industrial waste has achieved only the latter.
The writer is an author and environmental expert
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been presented with an ‘image’ by media and officials at the Ministry of Jal Shakti. The image is of clean rivers, especially the Ganga, with credits given to the nationwide lockdown that PM Modi announced on 24 March and then extended it twice until 17 May. Some of these pictures, which have been widely shared on social media and family WhatsApp groups, are clearly photoshopped. But while the photographs reaching Modi may not be entirely true, the PM does have a chance to put out the correct image of river Ganga, which he has been very vocal about, even making it a personal mission to clean the holy river.
First of all, PM Modi must stop trusting the images he is being shown. There is a difference between the Ganga river being clean and looking clean. Consider this. A glass of water with four teaspoons of sugar will look the same as before but taste sweeter than a glass of water with a teaspoon of Rooh Afza, which will look completely different but won’t be as sweet. The same is happening with the Ganga too. The contribution of domestic sewage in Ganga’s pollution is bigger than the darker and more visible industrial waste that is released into the river. During the lockdown, the amount of industrial effluents discharged into the river has declined by almost 90 per cent but the domestic sewage continues to pollute Ganga in the same manner as before. That’s why the Ganga only looks clean. The water quality hasn’t improved.
It’s true that water flowing in the upper streams of the Ganga has become drinkable at some places; but the reason behind this is the temporary ban on the Char Dham Yatra. It has nothing to do with the industrial production being shut because there are not many industries on the hills anyway. The ashrams and dharamshalas along the Ganga are mostly vacant at the moment. This is the time for the Modi government to stop the sewage flowing out from these ashrams from being released directly into the Ganga.
Uniform data, shifting factories
PM Modi should next ask various government agencies to collaborate on research so that everyone has the same data. Currently, government agencies even differ on the number of drains discharging waste into the Ganga river. Having accurate and uniform data will help in drafting better and informed policies. During the lockdown, both National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been collecting samples. If they share their data with each other, then right action can be taken on the factors responsible for the river’s pollution. One of the ways to change the image of the Ganga permanently is to shut down factories that discharge waste directly into the river. This will require political will. The lockdown has given the Modi government an opportunity to shift these factories elsewhere. Their share in the Ganga’s pollution may not be much, but these factories must be shifted from the sake of ‘Nirmal Ganga’. The workers employed in these factories can be provided temporary relief from the Namami Gange corpus. The project gives lakhs of rupees to factories just for the maintenance of skimmers, which have been non-operational for the past few months due to the lockdown. This budget can be better used to shift some factories and make their employees self-sufficient.
At present, even the hydroelectric power companies are not under much pressure. It is being estimated that the demand for electricity will continue to be low for some time. If the companies, which usually open the dam gates during the monsoon season, are asked to release the water now, there won’t be much technical and economic inconvenience, and the Ganga will be in a self-purification mode whose benefits will be seen long after the lockdown. Yes, the hydroelectric power companies can argue that they have to maintain a certain level of water in the catchment area to keep the turbines operating. However, as of now, electricity production is not at full capacity, so it won’t be right to wait until the onset of the monsoon season to open the dam gates. When Prime Minister Modi had proposed a nine-minute blackout across the country, there were some apprehensions that power grids might fail due to sudden fall in electricity demand. At that time, some hydroelectric power companies in Uttarakhand had halted their turbines. Therefore, any reason to procrastinate from releasing water is nothing more than an excuse.
Last chance of achieving a true picture
Currently, industrial production across India is almost shut and this sector is exploring possibilities for itself in the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package. In the initial phases, industries will mostly focus on producing FMCG goods such as oil, soap to meet the immediate demand. This is the time when the Modi government can stop these companies from producing goods in small sachets. This is important because it’s largely the small packets of oil, soap, shampoo etc. that flow into the windpipes of the rivers, choking them. They are easily available at the ghats of river Ganga, which people use and throw in the river. The everyday number would be in lakhs.
If Prime Minister Modi sees the Ganga now, he will be able to spot fishes in its waters. Pollution and excessive fishing had meant there were very few fishes left in the Ganga. But the scene has reversed due to large scale ban on fishing. The Modi government can now ask fishing entities to use a fixed-size net so that fishes weighing less than half a kilogram are not caught in the net and the ecology of the Ganga remains intact. In the past, this measure had worked wonderfully in West Bengal in preserving Hilsa. In order to improve the economic situation of people involved in fishing, more attention can be paid to the swampy areas of Ganga-Saryu belt of Bihar to increase the number of fish, help recharge the ground water level and make the Ganga appear less sick during the summer.
The bureaucracy might not like these ideas because these suggestions do not require huge amount of funds. But this might be the last chance for Prime Minister Modi to ensure a true and permanent picture of Clean Ganga.