Pollution in India’s major river Ganga has been a matter of concern for decades. But concrete steps to protect Ganga were planned and implemented only after the Modi government came to power. ‘Namami Gange’ program is a comprehensive conservation mission to rejuvenate river Ganga and all its tributaries. This program has been in place since May 2015. Another important announcement was made regarding the Draft Ganga Act on October 10, 2018, in which the union government notified the minimum environmental flows (e-flow) for River Ganga that has to be maintained at various locations in its course. The Act will soon be sent to Cabinet for their approval.
The significance of Draft Ganga Act
Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari explained the importance of Draft Ganga Act, as it will not only help in reducing the river pollution but also to ensure Aviral and Nirmal flow of river Ganga – which means continuous flow and cleanliness of the river.
The Act ensures:
- That the minimum e-flow of Ganga, which is the requirement of the environment, even after the river flow gets diverted by projects and structures for purposes like irrigation, hydropower, domestic and industrial use etc., will be maintained.
- The e-flow notification specified the minimum quantum of flow for different stretches of the river. The river is divided into two parts: Upper Ganga River Basin Stretch starting from originating glaciers to confluences meeting at Devaprayag up to Haridwar. Then, the lower stretch of River Ganga from Haridwar, Uttarakhand toUnnao, Uttar Pradesh.
- The existing projects which currently do not meet the norms will have to ensure that the desired environmental flow norms are met within a period of three years, from passing of the Act. However, the mini and micro-projects which do not alter the flow characteristics of the river or stream significantly are exempted from these environmental flow norms. The details of specified percentage flow in various places can be accessed here.
How does the E-flow Mechanism work?
The flow conditions in these river stretches will be monitored at an hourly interval from time to time. The Central Water Commission will be the designated authority and the custodian of the data. The responsibility of supervision, monitoring, regulation of flows and reporting of necessary information to the appropriate authorities rests with the Commission.
The concerned project developers or authorities will have to install automatic data acquisition and data transmission facilities at appropriate locations at project sites within six months. The Central Government through National Mission for Clean Ganga may direct release of additional water in the River Ganga to meet special demand, as and when required.
The Ganga Rejuvenation Work so far
As of July 2018, the status points are as follows:
- 105 projects of sewerage infrastructure in Ganga basin states have been sanctioned, at an estimated cost of Rs.17484.97 crores for cleaning and rejuvenation of river Ganga.
- Out of these, 25 sewerage infrastructure projects have been completed, so far.
- Approximately 2050 km new sewer lines have already been laid.
- The river water quality monitoring carried out in 2017 indicates that the water quality trends have improved significantly, as compared to 2016. There have been many positive developments like Dissolved Oxygen level has improved at 33 locations, Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels have reduced at 26 locations. Coliform bacteria count has reduced in 30 locations.
Apart from cleaning the river Ganga, Modi Government is also trying to explore newer avenues, such as realizing the true potential of river Ganga through establishing ‘National Waterway-1’, which is already in progress. To know more, you may read our earlier piece Who Was Destroying the Ganga? And Who’s Trying to Save It?
Thus, river Ganga rejuvenation, which is a far-reaching and a crucial issue, is being dealt with a systematic approach under Modi government. However, it will take time to actually show tangible results, as there are no quick fixes for such a long-standing issue.