The Ganga Action Plan has many flaws, but work on cleaning the river should continue
THE Ganga Action Plan (GAP) which began in 1986 has been attracting constant flak for the manner in which it has been implemented. Critics have pointed out basic flaws in the plan. The plan is ill-suited for Indian conditions, as most schemes are heavily dependent on a constant supply of power a rare commodity in most Indian cities. Moreover, no thought has been given to the financial requirement to operate and maintain schemes such as sewage treatment plants and sewage pumping stations. No municipality will have the courage to tax residents to run these facilities.
An Allahabad High Court (HC) order on September 16 had directed the stopping of work on the second phase of the GAP.
In this particular instance, the petitioner, a Kanpur-based concerned citizen, appealed to the HC to intervene when he realised that the GAP had not made any apparent difference to the quality of water. To sensitise his townsfolk, he had started a campaign to remove bodies from the river. The petition was the last step he undertook.
The HC had in its order of September 16, stayed the implementation of the GAP, ordering a 'thorough review' by an 'expert group' following allegations that the scheme had failed almost everywhere. It also called for a thorough audit of the Rs 500 crore spent on GAP so far. The Hc said that 'it is now almost clear that pollution instead of being controlled, had multiplied'. It had ruled that it was necessary for a group of environmental experts to carefully examine and scrutinise the progress of GAP.
This order was stayed by the Supreme Court (SC) on November 9. The ambitious river cleaning plan is to continue, for the time being. The National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) had appealed in the sc against the HC order. The SC has sent out a positive signal that work once started, needs to be continued. All attempts to stall other plans have only led to an escalation in the costs. Moreover, there have been a plethora of studies, conducted by the government as well as independent bodies, on GAP. Additional studies and committees would most certainly not come up with something earth-shattering. Efforts to improve the efficacy of such plans will work by buttressing existing attempts by laying greater stress on public education about the importance of such programmes. Not by stalling them.
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