NamamiGange Programme’, is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014 with budget outlay of Rs.20,000 Crore to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
|| Bhoomika Mohan
The government has significantly slashed allocations to its marquee plan to clean the Ganga. A dip in the fund allocation for NamamiGange can be seen from 2018-19 onwards when the programme was allocated just Rs 687 crore. In 2019-2020, the government announced to keep aside Rs 750 crore for the programme, but subsequently slashed it by half in the RE, compared to 2018-19.
National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy the best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation. Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation. Countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Israel etc. have shown interest in collaborating with India for Ganga rejuvenation.
According to the Revised Estimates 2018-19 in the interim Union Budget for 2019-20 presented in Parliament on Friday, NamamiGange was allotted Rs 2,300 crore. Of this, only Rs 700 crore has been utilised. Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget 2020-21 speech on February 1, announced an outlay of Rs 800 crore for NamamiGange, a flagship programme of the Union government to clean and revive the river. This is an increase of 127 per cent, compared to the Revised Estimates (RE) last year.
With a little over nine months left before the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious Ganga cleaning programme ‘NamamiGange’ ends, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has so far managed to spend just 29 per cent of the sanctioned amount. The funds were allotted to states through which the river passes: Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. As many as 261 projects were announced, but only 76 have been concluded. The total expenditure till date is Rs 5,979 crore — barely 23 per cent of the Rs 25,000-crore allocation.
“Some of the projects are to be implemented by the central government, some by the state governments, and a few by private players. These have to be awarded through a proper contract process,” said a senior official.
According to data made available by the ministry to Rajya Sabha on 2 March, the NMCG has as of January this year managed to spend Rs 8,352.86 crore towards the completion of 116 of the total 310 sanctioned river cleaning project. A bulk of the projects sanctioned, 152, pertain to putting in place sewage infrastructure, like sewage treatment plants (STPs) — one of the most crucial components to keep the river clean
The budget was sanctioned for a five-year period for setting up the infrastructure. But their operation and maintenance will be a continuous process and there has to be a budget for it,” said the official who didn’t want to be named. Of the total 310 projects sanctioned for cleaning the Ganga, 116 or 37 per cent have been completed as of January while work is underway in the remaining ones, according to the Jal Shakti ministry data.
Currently, the 97 towns located on the main stem of the river generate 2,953 MLD of sewage, and the available treatment capacity is only 1,794 MLD. There are a total of 155 large drains which discharge sewage directly into the river.
Of the 46 completed projects, Delhi is at the bottom of the list with not a single one of the 11 sanctioned STPs executed. Bihar is second worst with just one out of the 30 sanctioned STPs completed.
While the progress of various river cleaning infrastructure being put in place might be behind the mark, the Jal Shakti ministry bumped up its ad spending for the programme over the last two fiscals.
The Ministry of Water Resources had only spent Rs 200 crore till December 13 whereas all od Rs 50 crore was unspent till December, according to the information provided under the RTI Act to The Indian Express. While the efforts to clean the Ganga began in the 1980s, it could not gain pace for almost 20 years till 2014 and witnessed expenditure of Rs 4,000 crore between 1985 and 2014. When Narendra Modi took the reigns for India in 2014, a centrally funded scheme- NamamiGange was introduced with an outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for five years. Despite the funding, the government had earlier said that it will take longer than it was expected to clean Ganga.
According to the latest data, the NMCG spent a total of Rs 57.89 crore between 2014-15 and 20 February 2020 on advertisements published in print and electronic media.
During this period, the maximum spending was in the last fiscal when NMCG’s expenditure on advertisements was Rs 33.22 crore. The 2018-19 fiscal was the last year of the Modi government’s first term in office, before its re-election in May 2019.
The program now involves many states and all tributaries of the Ganga. Since it is a mega project, We need to involve all local people, corporates and the state governments in the river and water bodies cleaning and beautification along their banks. By 2025, we should have clean and beautiful rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes in the whole country.
The vision for Ganga Rejuvenation constituted restoring the wholesomeness of the river defied in terms of ensuring “Aviral Dhara”(Continuous Flow), “Nirmal Dhara”(Unpolluted Flow), Geologic and ecological integrity. The vision and the track to function shall not be diverted.
Seine river flows right in the middle of Paris city. Standing on the bank, one can almost see the bottom. The water is so clear. In India, polluting rivers is considered a birth right.
“Once, during a visit to Vridavan, while watching the evening Aarti my wife accidently stepped into the river water. The Panditji abused her for sullying the river. But, barely ten feet away from the spot, sewage was draining into Yamuna. That’s how we treat holy rivers.”, says Gururaj, a researcher on the subject.