- Expenditure could go up to between Rs 8,000 to 10,000 crore by 2019
- Only Rs 4,254 crore was spent on cleaning Ganga till last fiscal
- Will try 70 to 80% improvement in water quality by 2019: Nitin Gadkari
New Delhi: The government’s spending on cleaning the Ganga will jump from Rs 4,200 crore to between Rs 8,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal as several projects under the flagship Namami Gange programme will be completed, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said today. Seeking to change the perception that “nothing was happening” on the Namami Gange programme, the Water Resources Minister also reiterated that the Centre will try to ensure 70 per cent to 80 per cent improvement in water quality of the river by March 2019.
Till the end of the previous fiscal, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), an authority implementing the ambitious programme, had spent only Rs 4,254 crore (or 20 per cent) of the around Rs 20,000 crore sanctioned for the programme since 2015. Speaking to reporters in the national capital and also from the Ganga basin cities such as Kanpur, Varanasi and Patna via video conferencing on the status of implementation of the mission, Mr Gadkari said efforts will be made to clean the river in its entirety by December next year. Cleaning the Ganga was one of the key poll promises made by the ruling BJP in the run up to the general election in 2014.
20 per cent of the amount was spent till March (from 2015)…This year, there will be lot of expenditure…as per my assessment, we will be able to spend 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the (total) funds. So, from 20 per cent to 70 per cent means that expenditure going up by between Rs 8000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore, said Mr Gadkari.
Union Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister Uma Bharti was also present during the briefing. Till now, a total of 195 projects worth Rs 20,959.54 crore have been sanctioned for various activities under the programme. Gadkari reiterated the government was fully committed towards cleaning the river and also ensuring unfettered flow of water in it. He said the ministers and officials were all working round the clock to achieve the target. Gadkari said that out of the total 1,109 industry units polluting the river grossly, 358 units have been closed. These include distilleries, sugar factories, paper mills and tanneries mainly, he said.With projects completing, there has been a gradual drop in the pollution caused by industries in the river water, he said.
“But it is not 100 per cent as yet…I have only claimed that we will try to ensure improvement in the river’s water quality by 70 per cent to 80 per cent till March 2019,” Mr Gadkari said.
He said work on 151 ghats and 54 crematoriums, located along the river, will be completed this year. The minister also said that state governments have not given the Centre a complete list of ‘nullahs’ emptying pollutants in the river. He, however, did not name any states that had not done so.
“Like the population Census, the Census of nullahs not been done properly. I said (to officers) to use Google and find out where nullahs are located. So, the work of locating nullahs is on,” he said, adding that the quality of the water in the nullahs is examined from time-to-time.
On her part, Ms Bharti said that the all the 1662 gram panchayats and 4,465 villages in five Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal have become open defecation free (ODF). She said efforts will be made to turn the ODF villages into “ODF Plus” and “polythene-free”.
“We are taking efforts to convert the Ganga villages into ODF Plus by managing solid and liquid waste there, by planting trees which will ensure cleanliness and increase Ganga’s catchment area,” said Ms Bharti said.