Clean Ganga seems to be a distant dream

CAG report has put a question mark on the success of Modi government’s most ambitious programme

 
By Rashmi Verma
Last Updated: Thursday 21 December 2017

CAG reports highlight the loopholes in the implementation of Namami Gange (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)

The recently published report “Performance Audit of Rejuvenation of River Ganga” has put a question mark on the success of Modi government’s most ambitious programme. In the report, tabled in the Parliament this Tuesday, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) slammed the government for not performing upto the mark.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was established in August 2011 for project planning, management and implementation of activities related to river Ganga. The CAG audit is the first attempt to assess the impact of NMCG on management of the river.

The audit assessed the adequacy of availability and utilisation of funds, planning and implementation of various schemes/projects, adequacy of human resources and effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Total 87 projects (worth Rs 7,992.34 Crore) sanctioned after April 1, 2014 were scrutinised.

The report found that Rs 2500 crore sanctioned to different government organisations and public sector undertakings has not been utilised. The report highlighted delay, and non-implementation of project related to cleaning of the river, installation of sewage treatment plants, and construction of toilets in households. As noted, from the corpus of Rs 198.14 crore (as of March 31, 2017) available in the Clean Ganga Fund, money was not utilised due to non-finalisation of action plan.

Only 46 per cent of the Detailed Project Reports between 2014-15 and 2016-17 were approved. So far only Uttarakhand has undertaken initiatives to identify the River Conservation Zones. For pollution abatement and ghat cleaning, 46 sewage treatment plants, interception and diversion projects and canal works of worth Rs 5,111.36 crore were planned but in 56 per cent, there was a delay in execution as land was not available or clearances could not be procured or contractors were slow.

Collectively, only 56 per cent of the total amount released by NMCG for construction of individual household latrines, information, education and communication activities and management of solid and liquid waste were utilised by all five states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Only Uttarakhand achieved the target of construction of 100 per cent Individual household latrines. But in this state too, the pace of solid and liquid waste management was slow and restricted to only to 13 Gram Panchayats.

For conservation of flora and fauna and maintenance of ecological flow, no concrete steps have been taken. The programme suffers from overall shortage of manpower. The monitoring meeting did not happen on prescribed frequency. The implementation of Bhuvan Ganga, a web portal which was conceptualised to enable execution and monitoring of projects was slow. Along with this, the role of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in monitoring and evaluation was also ambiguous as only 7.44 per cent of the sanctioned amount has been utilised. Against 5,016 compliance verifications required to be conducted by CPCB in respect of 988 Grossly Polluting Industries, only 3,163 compliance verifications were conducted between 2011-17. Improper management and implementation dilutes the concept of improving water quality, the report noted. Total coliform bacteria levels in all the cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal ranged between 6 to 334 times higher than prescribed levels, the report highlights.

The audit provides a set of 12 recommendations for realistic planning, better functioning of funds, strict monitoring and evaluation and management of goals to make river Ganga clean. CAG says that major focus should be on the timely release of funds particularly Clean Ganga Fund. NMCG should also finalise Ganga River Basin Management Plan and implement it in a time bound manner. The appraisal process should be kept smooth and proceed in time bound manner. NMCG should also identify and declare River Conservation Zones and address the capacity gaps of sewerages, in order to conserve the River Ganga from encroachment and construction activities, recommends the CAG report.

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