The Union government has decided to implement schemes similar to the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) for 23 new rivers in 10 states, proving that it has learnt little from the poor implementation of the river cleaning programmes launched in the past (see 'Sullied effort', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 17, January 31, 2001). At a recent meeting of the National River Conservation Authority (NCRA), presided by prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the government decided to implement the new schemes. "It is foolishness on the part of the government to launch schemes similar to GAP in the wake of its failure. The main reason of GAP's failure is corruption. The Union government's decision is nothing but another way to make money," says Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, a grassroots organisation. There are many others who share Bhai's opinion. "The government should not waste public money. We have seen how large amounts of money were given for the implementation of GAP, but with little results. If implemented through the state governments, the new schemes will also fail," says Johny C J, of the Science and Society Division, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation.
The total cost of the programmes is estimated to be Rs 3,100 crore over five years. The Union and state governments in the ratio of 70:30 will share the cost of the project. But many state governments oppose this suggestion. "The Orissa government will ask the Union government to bear the entire cost," says Ranganath Mishra, a member of NRCA from the state. Even the West Bengal government is undecided about the schemes. "If the states do not have any stake in the projects they will not take enough interest in the schemes. The government does not seem to have learnt from its past mistakes," claims Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a member of NRCA.
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