Prayagraj (Allahabad): Every day, the specially-trained personnel of 137 Composite Eco-Task Force (CETF) battalion of the Territorial Army carry out a drill at the Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj (Allahabad) to educate and create awareness among the masses on keeping the river clean. Called ‘Ganga Task Force’, they organise gatherings at the ghats and on the banks of River Ganga to spread public awareness. They not only interact with the visitors but also with priests, vendors and barbers to seek their contribution to fulfilling the task of cleaning and rejuvenating the holiest river.
As Prayagraj city prepares to hold Kumbh Mela in January, the role of Ganga Task Force gets more significant. Dinesh Chand Tiwari, a priest at Triveni Sangam said,
It is our responsibility to keep the River Ganga and the Yamuna clean. We will ask visitors not to throw poly bags and flowers inside the river. Only the liquids can be poured into the river and not any other items.
They have their own water-testing laboratory, which regularly examines the oxygen level in the water. The Task Force team includes ex-servicemen who have been trained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to measure the river’s health. The Ganga Task Force was approved by the Cabinet under the Public Participation component of the Namami Gange Programme.
On March 2016, the first battalion was raised for the National Mission for Clean Ganga and is presently stationed in Prayagraj. Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga said,
It was thought of that ex-servicemen to the very nature of their job and discipline, plus they can pick up new things, they would be very helpful if we can deploy them at important places in Uttar Pradesh. So we have started this with U.P. because that’s the state where perhaps maximum challenges are there before us. So, at present one full battalion is located in Allahabad. So, we have actually plan to deploy them in Varanasi, Allahabad and Kanpur – three major cities in U.P. where lots of people come and pollution challenges are there.
Rajive Kishore, Executive Director, Administration, National Mission for Clean Ganga added, “The whole idea, the intangible part of using the Ganga Task Force and the ex-servicemen and the task of cleaning the Ganga is what we are looking at. Moreover, armed forces by the way nature and by training they do with a high level of excellence. I have seen that in Allahabad where the present battalion headquarters is situated and within a short span of less than a year they have already brought up a very beautiful nursery which has almost one lakh saplings.”
As afforestation is a good way to rejuvenate rivers, plantation of trees on the banks of the holy river is one of the prime tasks of the Ganga Task Force. They run a nursery at the Cantonment Area and prepare saplings as per the climatic conditions of the area. The plants include Aam, Khas, Keli, Jamun and Neem.
The Ganga Task Force also works closely with the state forest department to fulfil the requirement of tree plantation on the riverside. Lieutenant Colonel Deepak Kumar, Officiating Commanding Officer, Ganga Task Force said,
Our main focus is basically to do plantation in the areas allotted in consonance with the River Ganga plan. Also, we carry out the awareness campaigns and the workshop on a regular basis. We see connecting with the people as quite an important aspect of Ganga rejuvenation efforts. I think, when we connect with the masses, we achieve our mission and objective in a better way.
They also regularly hold interactive sessions with students at schools, colleges and institutes. They give a presentation about the economic, environmental, spiritual and cultural significance of River Ganga to the youth. Muhammad Atif, a student said, “It was very interesting. It was very engaging. They had a powerful presentation which made us think why it is important to save Ganga and get it clean.” The Ganga Task Force has been playing a significant role for the `Namami Gange’ mission to clean and rejuvenate the Ganga River.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.