Narendra Modi Ganga plan may face hiccups

The cleaning of the Ganga, one of the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may face bottlenecks.

While Modi has laid special emphasis on cleaning the 2,525 km-river, which is deified by millions of Hindus and is part of India's literature and lore while providing water to over 40 per cent of India's population across 11 states, environmentalists count the large number of dams as one of the biggest problems for the health of the river.

A new ministry to tackle the cleaning of the Ganga may not really change its fate, nor can the "Sabarmati model", experts say, adding that legislative provisions are needed to ensure that the river's glory is restored.

The separate ministry for the Ganga created under Uma Bharti brings hope, but it is yet to come up with a concrete plan.

"Cleaning is not a solution for the Ganga... the three head streams - Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini - all have several dams and barrages. This, coupled with higher withdrawal of ground water, results in more river water seeping into the ground. Water extracted through canals also makes the inflow of rivers in the Ganga diminish," environment scientist and member of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) B.D. Tripathi told IANS.

The NGRBA was constituted in 2009 under the chairmanship of then prime minister Manmohan Singh for cleaning the Ganga.

According to Tripathi, several issues concerning river management do not fall within the present legislative framework, such as maintenance of environmental flows, protection of a river basin's ecology and biodiversity, maintenance of ground water table, consolidation of plans for the diversion of river waters in different stretches, discharge of sewage, obstructions to river flow and loss of connectivity and use of floodplains and active floodplains.


The Ganga River Basin Management Plan (GRBMP), prepared by NGRBA and a consortium of seven IITs recently recommended new legislation and constitutional provisions enabling the establishment of a commission for the management of the Ganga river basin.

"The Ganga is a national river and hence needs national policies. Now that there is an independent ministry, we need to realise that the Ganga has to be managed centrally though a legal framework to ensure that issues related to the river, its flow, and its basin are addressed uniformly all over the country," said Tripathi.

While Modi points to Gujarat's Sabarmati river as an example when he promised to clean up the Ganga, activists say this holds no water for the Ganga.

The Sabarmati is one of Gujarat's biggest rivers. It originates from the Dhebar lake in the Aravalli range in Rajasthan's Udaipur district and drains through the Gulf of Khambhat into the Arabian Sea after travelling 371 km in a southwesterly direction. It flows through Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar and twin town Ahmedabad and has an elaborate river front developed as a prime tourist attraction.


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