Lok Sabha TV- Public Forum : Rejuvenating The Ganga
The National Green Tribunal has passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate river Ganga in the recent past. It has gone a step ahead this time by declaring an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao as no development zone. The NGT has also prohibited dumping of waste within 500 metres from the river saying that every offender would be liable to pay a penalty of Rs.50,000 for offence along this stretch between Haridwar and Unnao.
NGT on Ganga:
- NGT in its 5 page order, directed states to do the needful to save the river Ganga.
- The order came on a 1985 PIL of noted environmental activist MC Mehta who demanded a CBI probe into the spending of Rs.7000 crore.
- Supreme Court transferred this PIL to NGT in 2014.
- Projects should be finalized by National Mission for Clean Ganga
- Drains from tanneries, industrial units, sewage should be realigned at regular intervals.
- NGT also sought a plan from the leather units to shift Jajmau cluster in Kanpur.
It is also important to note that on March 20th this year, the Uttarakhand High Court accorded the status of living human entities to the two rivers Ganga and Yamuna. This was to enable this preservation and conservation of the two rivers and to protect the recognition and faith of the society. The Supreme Court later put a stay on the High Court judgement. All this is being said and done in order to address the state of river Ganga which has deteriorated over the years due to mistreatment and unsustainable practices. Today, the Ganga river is placed among the five most polluted rivers of the world and the Himalayas from which the river originates as one of the most endangered ecosystem.
NGT proposes cleaning Ganga in 5 segments:
- Gomukh to Haridwar
- Haridwar to Unnao
- Unaao to the border of Uttar Pradesh
- UP border to Jharkhand border
- Jharkhand to the Bay of Bengal
River Ganga serves the interest of nearly 40% of India’s population. This itself supports the argument that there is a need to save the river. Apart from this, most of the agriculture in the northern plains require support of this river. It has been a source for all industrial developments. As the cities have grown on the sides of the Ganga, the pressure on this river has increased due to:
- Excessive use of water
- Whatever water remains is getting polluted due to the continuous and ever increasing waste dumping of all varieties like chemical affluent, dead bodies etc.
This is a major reason why in some areas Ganga river water is not even fit for drinking. Ganga is a lifeline that provides livelihood to the people and this will be severely affected if the river continues to get abused such as those of local fishermen. Fly ash from industries in Delhi are dumped in river Yamuna which ultimately flows into Ganga.
- It is an integrated Ganga conservation mission.
- 20,000 crore allocated for this project in 2015 and it is a 100% centrally funded programme.
- Order empowers National Mission for Clean Ganga to work in an independent and accountable manner.
- Consist of sewerage infrastructure projects as well.
- Industrial pollution abatement
- Interventions to improve flow of water
- River front development
- Solid waste management
- Capacity building of institutions and setting up of monitoring centres.
- Focus on research, studies and pilot projects along with improvement in GIS based data.
- Afforestation and biodiversity conservation through media, communication and public outreach activities.
- Knowledge sharing through workshops (national and international)
Despite a lot of money being invested in this project, there has been no significant results which raises the question why this proved to be a failure and where the money was spent. Even before Namami Gange, many programmes have been launched without much success.
As far as the implementation of the order goes, one is trying to provide a framework for State Governments to pull up themselves and their machinery. For example: 100 metres from the edge of the river is not defined, edge of the river is not known and where this 100 metre ends, mechanisms to monitor people and catch those who are found guilty.
Therefore, cooperation is required from the people who are actually on the site i.e. public participation apart from strong political and administrative will. For this, the authorities need to come out of their comfort zones to make a difference. There is a need to advertise these things publicly so that people out of their ignorance do not trespass and pollute the river, stop illegal sand mining, check sewage discharge in rivers and control waste discharge in rivers due to religious activities.