Namami Gange

Narendra Modi-led government’s flagship programme to restore purity and glory of India’s holiest river has made little progress on ground

Published: Friday 22 May 2015

Vikas Choudhary

Ganga basin, the largest river basin in India, covers a little more than a quarter of the country’s landmass and supports almost 43 per cent of its population.

Restoring the “nirmal aur aviral dhara” (clear and flowing stream) of “Ma Ganga” was a top priority for Narendra Modi when he was sworn in as the Prime Minister on May 26, 2014. It was also one of the major election promises made by Modi to the ancient riverside city of Varanasi, which elected him to Parliament.

A flagship programme—Namami Gange—was launched the same month the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was sworn in. A separate ministry under the Union water resources ministry was created for the river rejuvenation programme and the Union Cabinet has approved a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for it over the next five years. This is 10 times what was allocated in previous cleaning programmes—Ganga Action Plan phase I and II. The 2015-16 budget also declared a 100 per cent tax exemption for those contributing to the clean Ganga project. But despite the new programme and huge funds, the NDA government faces criticism for doing nothing constructive on ground.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Can Namami Gange succeed where other programmes failed?

  Pre- Namami Gange Namami Gange
Programme features Ganga Action Plan (GAP)-I launched in 1986. Plan involved pollution abatement measures in 25 class I towns in three states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. GAP I was completed in 2000. GAP II was approved in phases, from 1993 to 1996. For reducing pollution load on the river, treatment of four major tributaries of the Ganga—Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar and Mahananda—was also taken up. Under GAP-II, to treat the main stem of the Ganga, pollution abatement measures were taken up in 59 towns in five states—Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The National Ganga Basin River Authority (NGBRA) was launched in 2009 due to failure of GAP I and II. NGBRA has basin-specific approach. An integrated programme. Involves different ministries--water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, environment and forest, shipping, tourism, urban development, drinking water and sanitation and rural development Talks for the first time about involving people living on the banks of the river, urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions Plan includes establishing a Ganga Eco-Task Force, a Territorial Army unit and roll out of legislation to check pollution and protect the river Cleaning programme to be implemented jointly by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which is the implementation wing of NGRBA, and State Program Management Groups (SPMGs) Talks about strengthening monitoring system through committees at national, state and district levels
Funding pattern In the early 1990, the fund sharing for the projects was 50:50 between Central and respective state governments. In 1997, it was decided that the Central government will pay 100 per cent of the funds. The arrangement did not last long. In 2001, the cost sharing formula became 70: 30, wherein 30 per cent funds were to be arranged by states; local bodies were expected to contribute one-third of the 30 per cent share of the state Central government will fund 100 per cent expenses for various activities and projects
Operation and maintenance (O&M) The Centre planned to build projects through public-private participation (PPP) route, which required the concessionaire to design-build-operate sewage treatment plants (STPs) for five years. The Centre was to take over O&M for five years and then hand it over to the respective state. Failed due to the poor financial capacity of the local bodies in cities along the Ganga Centre to take care of the assets for a minimum 10 year period, and adopt a PPP/SPV approach for pollution hotspots. After this assets, will be handed over to state
Money sanctioned GAP I: Sanctioned amount Rs. 462 crore. GAP II: The total approved cost of the action plan is Rs 1,498.86 crore. NGBRA: The amount sanctioned under NGBRA till March 2014 is Rs 4,974.79 crores. Total outlay budget of Rs. 20,000 crore for five years Part allocations of this had already been made in 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets. Previous allocations: Interim budget of 2014-15 : Rs 2,037 crores for cleaning Ganga and Rs 100 crore for ghat development and beautification of the river front at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi. Over and above this, Rs 4,200 crore sanctioned for for Jal Marg Vikas project for Ganga in Uttar Pradesh (this is not under National Mission for Clean Ganga’s purview). Budget of 2015-16: Rs. 4,173 crore jointly for water resources and Namami Gange programme.
Projects Total wastewater treatment capacity of 1,208.50 MLD was created (STP – 1,188.50 MLD, CETP – 20 MLD) has been created under GAP and NGRBA till June, 2014 No such construction Only 2 projects cleared
  1. 140 MLD Dinapur STP at Varanasi (sanctioned cost is Rs 496 crore). Work is going at site
  2. Rs 700 crore project at Patna for constructing STPs and sewerage network. A present, tendering process is on.
Series of projects recommended by Empowered Steering Committee – needs approval
  1. Riverfront development, Chandighat, Hardwar
  2. 40 MLD Jagjitpur STP
  3. 50 MLD Rammanah STP at Varanasi
  4. Rehabilitation and upgradation of 182 MLD Rithala Phase I, Delhi
  5. Rehabilitation and upgradation of three phases of Kondli STP (204 MLD), Delhi
Expenditure 2013-14: GAP I and II: Rs 986.34 crore NGBRA programme: Rs 910.57 crore Total: Rs 1,897 crore 2014-15: Projects in pipeline Very little spent on implementation

Tardy implementation

  • NDA government’s much-hyped Ganga cleaning programme shows no implementation on ground. Till date, the only projects that have been taken up are: ghat cleaning in Varanasi and creation of bio-toilets during Magh mela in Allahabad.
  • A large amount of money has been spent on just holding meetings and discussions. According to sources, a reply to an RTI filed to request for details about expenditure on Ganga cleaning showed that around Rs 44 lakh had been spent only on meetings till November 2014.
  • STPs with total installed capacity of 90 MLD awaiting approval.
  • Only two projects were cleared last year. Out of these, work has started at only one STP site.

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