AIR spotlight summary on National Mission for Clean Ganga
- Giving a wider shape to Namami Ganga programme, Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation inaugurated 231 projects worth Rs 20,000 cr related to the construction of Ghats, crematoriums, sewage treatment plants, Afforestation, tree plantation (medicinal plants) and conservation of biodiversity. Rs 196 cr online pollution monitoring system will also be launched.
- Ganga is the largest river in India with an extraordinary religious importance. Varanasi and Patna situated along its branch are the world’s oldest inhabited cities. Ganga provides water to about 40% of India’s population serving an estimate 500 million people which is larger than any other river.
- Ganga Gram Yojana is implemented under Namami Ganga Programme. 400 villages along the river Ganga will be developed as Ganga Gram in phase one. 13 IITs have been adopted for 5 villages for the development of Ganga Gram. There is large public participation, science and societal interaction.
Causes of pollution
- This is another initiative taken by the government for cleaning river Ganga along with the 1986 launch of Ganga Action Plan.
- The main causes for the pollution along the river are the increase in the population density and enhanced per capita pollutants discharge into the river.
- 15,000 million litres of sewage flows into the river untreated every day. This is a huge quantity and this is to be treated upfront. Source of pollution is to be treated. We often emphasise on non point source like surface flow and fertilizer flow from the agriculture fields. The point of source is municipal sewage and industrial waste.
- During festival season over 70 million people take bath in Ganga over a few weeks. Materials like food, flower and plastics are let into the river.
- Human impact on Ganga river showed significant rise in water borne diseases including cholera, hepatitis and dysentery.
Areas left out in National Mission for Clean Ganga
- The overall trouble in understanding the river flow in India is that we are not looking at it from the basin perspective, but we are looking at it from the sectoral perspective with respect to irrigation, hydro power generation, human consumption and industrial use. Due to this we are not able to tackle the issue of revival and river pollution control.
- The new projects still have a sectoral approach that is the crematorium at the ghats, beautifying river banks, plantation and eco forestry. Addressing the core issue of flow of pollutants, untreated sewage and untreated industrial load into the river are to be addressed. These issues are not highlighted in the mission.
- If any water body is flowing polluted, there is a general tendency for the masses to over pollute it. If the clean river is flowing the tendency is not to pollute it. The problem is we haven’t been able to control the large chunk of pollution which is coming from non point source.
- If we look at the history of pollution control in the country, we can notice that the point sources are not considered properly despite the existence of pollution control act which prohibits polluting any fresh water body.
- We have an Environmental Impact Assessment, 2006 and recent draft notification called the Environment supplemental plan (ESP) by MoEFCC. The plan gives the opportunity for the industrial units along the river to pollute the river and pay fine for it. This goes in line with the approach of the government to increase investment and growth in industrial sector. This is in contradiction to Ganga Rejuvenation Plan. Such supplemental plan should be withdrawn in the interest of protecting the river from further pollution.
Need of the Hour
- The focus has to be more on technology and source of pollution, while rest would follow in due course.
- Fishery is one component which is not highlighted. The economics of fish development and the dependence of the population on the fishery along the Ganga River have not been computed. This is one area which is to be looked at.
- Ganga river Dolphin is one of the few species of the fresh water Dolphins listed as an endangered species. Their population is less than 2000. Hydro electric and irrigation dams along the Ganga are the main reason for their reducing population.
- Conservation of biodiversity requires more focus. The river dolphins, river biota, river fish, aquatic biodiversity and upland biodiversity are very important in keeping the river healthy.
- Pollution itself does not contribute to GDP but installing Pollution control equipments contribute to GDP. The cache here is to install more Pollution control equipments. The core aim should be to get the river clean as much as possible.
- There is a need to examine the pollution control initiatives in the light of the changes the society has gone through. The consumption pattern has changed.
- The Thames River at once was heavily polluted and today it is not. When India started its Ganga Action Plan in 1986 it was in a socialist kind of an era. In 2016 we are part of a Globalised world. These are the two socio economic changes we see. During this period the society, its consumption pattern, and its behaviour have gone through significant changes.
- Engaging the people who are dependent on the river and who live along the banks is very important. This will contribute in the achievement of the project’s objective.
The economic transition the country has gone through should bring in the changes in the people’s behaviour. These changes cannot be enforced. They occur as part of the economic transition the community go through. If we have to protect biodiversity then all the physical barriers along the river have to be removed.