- Conservation related issues.
Draft National River Ganga Bill, 2018
What to study?
For Prelims: Key highlights of the Bill.
For Mains: Conservation of Ganga- concerns, challenges and measures.
Context: In the next two months, hydropower projects that do not comply with the Centre’s ecological flow notification, which mandates that project developers ensure a minimum supply of water all through the year, could face closure.
The Centre’s ecological flow notification, as it is called, came into effect last October and gave companies three years to modify their design plans, if required, to ensure that a minimum amount of water flowed during all seasons. Power producers generally hoard water to create reserves to increase power production.
Many environmentalists had long been demanding such provisions which ensure uninterrupted flow of the river.
National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018- highlights:
- The bill propose to ban the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
- It proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’
- The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river. Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed.
- The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorized” activitiesthat cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water.
- The Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC)personnel will be provided by the ministry of home affairs and will be deployed by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority. The GPC personnel will have power to arrest those who pollute the river covering offences like obstructing the flow of the river to commercial fishing.
- It specifies that the upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
The Bill has listed out a list of offences marked as cognizable which includes:
- Construction activities causing obstruction in the river.
- Withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries.
- Commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries.
- Discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.
According to a map of Ganga river water quality presented by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to National Green Tribunal (NGT) in August 2018, only five out of 70-odd monitoring stations had water that was fit for drinking and seven for bathing. After three decades of efforts to clean the national river, it is a sad state of affairs that the river is not even fit for bathing.