- In its first year, NMCG has sanctioned 44 sewage treatment projects
- All the villages in the river basin have been declared open defecation free
- Only 23% of the target of developing sewage treatment has been met till now
As the nation remained busy in celebrating the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan anniversary on October 2, it was also another significant, albeit quiet one year anniversary of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) as the authority body in charge of the Namami Gange programme. The body, which was earlier the implementation arm of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), was given authorial powers in October 2016 following the dismissal of the NGRBA. Cleaning up the Ganga has been a prerogative of the present Union government since 2014 and lack of a singular authority with significant reach was cited as the reason why earlier Ganga cleanup campaigns had failed to make an impact.
Since then, the NMCG has been in charge of implementing the Namami Gange initiative. The Namami Gange programme too has seen proper implementation only since 2016, two years after its formal launch, hence the NMCG’s role in restoring the Ganga in the past one year has become more important.
As the sole authority in charge of implementing the objectives of the Namami Gange progamme, the past one year by NMCG has adopted public private partnerships (PPP) route in several Ganga basin states to setup sewage treatment plants (STPs). A total of 44 projects have been sanctioned in the last year, estimated to cost around Rs 7,500 crore. The total treatment capacity of these 44 STPs will be around 1,402 million litres daily (MLD), spreading over a network length of 1,429 kilometres. The capacity however is not even half of the required 6,087 MLD of sewage generated by the Ganga daily.
Sanctioning and setting up of STPs is not an easy task, as land needs to be demarcated by the local municipal authorities, tenders need to be circulated, following which projects get sanctioned. 44 projects in a year has been made possible due to the continuous monitoring and joint meetings between the state authorities and us, said Rajiv Kishore, Executive Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga.
Pollution in the Ganga basin has been a cause of concern and despite the expenditure of thousands of crores, there are no visible changes in the river’s water quality. The NMCG has been given the authority to survey and monitor more than 1,100 grossly polluting industries (GPIs) along the river basin and the authority to recommend their shutdown if these did not adhere to sewage disposal guidelines. In the past on year, 333 GPIs were closed by the NMCG.
Industrial pollution was never addressed as seriously as it has been done in the last one year. The shutdown of more than 300 GPIs signals the importance river pollution has been given under the programme. We will continue carrying out checks and inspections in the remaining industries and the violating ones will be asked to shutdown, as per law, said Mr Kishore.
Two other significant successes for the NMCG in the last one year has been the setting up of state and district Ganga committees, and the eradication of open defecation from all the Ganga villages.
Setting up of Ganga committees in all the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal is significantly important as issues related to the river also differ from state to state and the lack of coordination between Central missions and states earlier was one of the reasons why the earlier Ganga missions could not be a success. Already 30 meetings have been held between the state committees and NMCG, which is a sign that the coordination between the Centre and states over the Ganga has been stronger in the last year.
The ODF status attained by Ganga basin villages is a big plus for the Namami Gange programme, as it effectively reduces the amount of faecal material going into the river. 12,74,421 individual household toilets have been constructed in villages situated on the Ganga basin.
While NMCG itself is happy with the progress it has made in the past one year, activists who have toiled to save the Ganga for years are not entirely happy with the progress NMCG has made in the last one year. Rakesh Jaiswal of Eco Friends, an NGO dedicated to Ganga conservation is of the opinion that being the singular Ganga conservation authority now, the NMCG should have been stricter about shutting down GPIs.
The NMCG has identified so many polluting industries but only around 300 have been shut. The rest too should have been immediately relocated or their polluting activities stalled at least to ensure that the water quality does not deteriorate, said Mr Jaiswal.
Environmental lawyer Mahesh Chandra Mehta said that while a singular authority gives more power to take better decisions, setting up of STPs was still a matter where Centre, state and local municipal bodies’ cooperation was needed, which delayed the exercise.
STPs in the Ganga basin should be authorised speedily, if the 6,000 MLD sewage target is to be met. It must not be forgotten that the Namami Gange mission was launched in 2014, said Mr Mehta.
NMCG’s completion of a year as the singular authority in Ganga cleaning matters is a significant achievement in the strained history of cleaning the river. However, a lot of ground remains to be covered to ensure that adequate numbers of STPs are installed to treat sewage entering into the river. The body should make good use of its already strong base of cleaning up the Ganga and completing all the subsidiary tasks to ensure that the river flow remains clean and consistent.
With inputs from PTI