Fact Check

Is Namami Gange Only A Marginal Improvement?

STORY
Once Upon A River

The Indian Express, May 12, 2017

The article contends that although the government plans to spend Rs 20,000 crore over five years on the Namami Gange Programme, it “is an improvement on its predecessor [the Ganga Action Plan] in very few respects”. It also argues that apart from activities like planting trees, developing interceptor drains or “Ganga Grams”, Namami Gange replicates the Ganga Action Plan in emphasising sewage treatment plants.

THE PROBLEM
The article does not consider the much broader scope and unprecedented scale of the Namami Gange Programme. Nor does it look at what the programme has already achieved till date. It also seems to imply that more funding means more wastage, unlinked to performance.
All important facts and data pertaining to Namami Gange are available on the websites of the Press Information Bureau and the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. Even a cursory glance is sufficiently revealing of the programme.

THE FACTS
Let’s look at the facts pertaining to all of the above issues:

Funding & Functioning

  • Central Allocation: Rs 20,000 crore till 2020 for the rejuvenation of the Ganga
  • The amount is significantly higher than the allocation for the Ganga Action Plan
  • To utilise the funds optimally and prevent wastage, Namami Gange activities are divided under three time-bound categories
  • These categories are:
    Entry Level (With Immediate Effect): Cleanliness, repair and construction of ghats; installation of toilets; abating sewage waste and crematorium by-products
  • Medium Term (Within 5 Years): Curbing inflow of municipal & industrial waste
  • Long Term (Within 10 Years): Major financial reforms to ensure efficiency and sustainability

Main Achievements

  • 68 MLD (million litres/ day) Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) & 14 MLD STP in Haridwar approved under Hybrid Annuity-based PPP mode
  • “Clean Ganga Fund” created to encourage contributions from resident Indians, NRIs, PIOs, institutions and corporates. Rs 132 crore received as of August 2016
  • Agreement on Ganga rejuvenation signed between with German International Corporation
  • Development and rehabilitation of 41 STPs under 34 projects, with a total capacity of 808.23 MLD, sanctioned in Ganga Basin States
  • “Ganga Gram” model village initiative launched in 306 villages to protect the river from waste and household disposal, with focus on sustainable sanitation infrastructure and cleanliness practices
  • Smart Ganga City Scheme initiated in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Patna, Sahibgunj and Barrackpore
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) conducted 573 inspections of 764 Grossly Polluting Industries. Action taken against 96 non-complying units
  • Out of 35 distilleries near the river, 17 achieved Zero Liquid Discharge
  • Government has proposed installation of 113 Real Time Water Quality Monitoring Stations (RTWQMS). 36 already installed
  • 28 River-Front Development projects and 33 Entry Level Projects for construction, modernisation & renovation of 182 ghats and 118 crematoriums initiated

The facts above appear to contradict the notion that the Namami Gange Programme is only a marginal improvement. Nor is its scope limited mostly to STPs. Under the programme, projects and schemes have been launched and/or expanded under the following heads: Installation of Pollution & Sewage Treatment Plants, River Front Development, River Surface Cleaning, Afforestation Drives, Protecting Biodiversity and Creating Public Awareness and Participation.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Unprecedented Scale, Bigger Scope than Ganga Action Plan
  • Ministry’s Name Changed to Reflect Ganga’s Importance
  • Five Major Ganga Basin States Targeted
  • Rs 20,000 crore allocated over five years
  • Activities divided under timebound categories
  • Development & Rehabilitation of 41 STPs under 34 projects
  • STP total capacity 808.23 MLD for Ganga Basin States
  • 68 MLD STP & 14 MLD STP in Haridwar
  • “Ganga Gram” model village initiative for 306 villages
  • Smart Ganga City Scheme initiated
  • 28 River-Front Development projects & 33 Entry Level Projects
  • 113 Real Time Water Quality Monitoring Stations proposed
  • 36 RTWQMSs already installed
  • Nirmal Dhara initiative for sewage management
  • Bio-diversity, Afforestation Drives

While its primary objective is to clean up the Ganga and its tributaries, the Namami Gange Programme extends beyond attempting to inject life into the country’s lifeline. The cleaning and conservation of the Ganga and its tributaries is a continuous and collective process that needs complete synergies among its different stakeholders — Central and state governments, private and publics bodies, and individual citizens. It is not only more elaborate but also more participatory than the process begun in 1985 under the Ganga Action Plan.

ADDITIONAL FACTS

Flagship Programme

  • Namami Gange Project is an integrated mission approved as a flagship programme under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
  • 5 major Ganga Basin States — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand & West Bengal — are targeted
  • Erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources was renamed to include the action plan for the Ganga in its name
  • National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) was moved from the environment ministry and placed under the revamped and renamed water ministry

Other Achievements

  • First company of Ganga Task Force Battalion deployed at Garhmukteshwar for examining progress on a fast-track basis
  • Nirmal Dhara initiative for sewage management in rural and urban India
    Cleaning of solid waste begun at 11 locations
  • Several bio-diversity projects initiated
  • Afforestation drive planned. According to the detailed project report, 134105.8 hectares will be planted
  • Swacchta Sankalp Diwas, Shram Dhan, and other initiatives to encourage people’s participation. Exhibitions, seminars, cleanliness drives, rallies, campaigns, contests, etc, organised to create public awareness
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