Venerated as a living goddess and a source of livelihood for millions living along its basin, the Ganga has cradled civilization since time unknown. This glorious river sustains entire ecosystems and vast number of communities across her length. But today it is facing formidable pollution pressure and a consequential threat to its biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
Around 3 billion liters of untreated water is disposed off in the river from various towns and cities around its basin. Latest statistics report that domestic sewage accounts for 70-80% of the wastewater that flows into the Ganga. Industrial effluents account for another 15%. The remaining 5% is due to direct disposal of solid waste. This has a far reaching impact on human and aquatic health due to it's toxic nature.
To protect the Ganga from this culmination of various pollution sources, in July 2014 the Government of India launched the Namami Gange Mission. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has been given the task of implementation by the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). The aim of the mission is:
To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectorial co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and to maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development
To improve its implementation, NGBRA has recently appointed a three-tier mechanism that looks into monitoring its projects:
1. A high level task force chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and assisted by NMCG at the national level
2. State-level committees chaired by Chief Secretary and assisted by State Programme Management Groups (SPMG)
3. District-level committees chaired by the District Magistrate
On the financial front, the Centre is now providing 100% of funding to states. The Centre earlier provided 70%, with states providing the rest.
The “Namami Gange” scheme's appointed water ministry, NGRBA, has so far sanctioned a total 83 projects in 49 towns in Ganga States costing Rs 8254 crore. More than 50% of the budget is assistance from Japan International Agency and the World Bank, who have together Rs 4387 crore. Most projects include laying of sewage networks, treatment plants, and development of river fronts.
On 31st March 2015, both the Centre and the States have incurred a total expenditure of Rs 3205 crore. A budget of Rs 3500 crore has been set for the year 2016-17 and Rs 13295 crore for 2017-2020.
What has the progress been so far?
Recently, the ministry has also set up the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) with voluntary contributions from residents of the country and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) / Person of Indian Origin (PIOs). The goal is to harness their enthusiasm to contribute towards the conservation of the River Ganga. The total contributions received on 15th July 2015 under this fund stands at Rs. 65 Crore.
Even though the present government in the Centre has sanctioned several projects, nothing much has been done on the implementation front. There is a huge gap in construction of sewerage treatment plants (STPs). In many towns and cities infrastructural development for sewerage treatment has not even started.
Kanpur city in Uttar Pradesh has two sewage treatment plants (STPs) and just one common effluent treatment plant (CETP) to treat around 600 million liters per day (MLD). It awaits commencement of construction of other plants sanctioned. The city of Varanasi also awaits implementation of various infrastructural projects as it generates 400 MLD of sewage. It has only three STPs which can handle just 102 MLD. The state of Uttrakhand is also facing the same issues with regards to establishment of STPs in the state’s upper basin due to issues like climate change and local opposition on establishments.
Furthermore, a major hindrance in the implementation of the mission is due to political issues. The majority of the states through which the Ganga flows have governments led by opposition parties. This increases the uncertainty of fund flows from the Centre.
Namami Gange Mission is a productive restoration step taken up by the current government to restore the water levels of the sacred river and protect it from further adulteration due to human action. Analyzing the current state of affairs, it is a moderate work-in-progress with several gaps that need to be taken care of by the concerned authorities. All in all, the scheme’s success depends upon effective and strategic implementation. It requires active participation from all the institutions and departments in charge backed by a sound funding policy and an adequate time span.