In its bid to fast-track execution of the ambitious Namami Gange programme, the NDA government today launched 231 projects, including installation of sewage treatment plants and ghat constructions, at over 100 locations in seven states with an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore.
The projects, aimed at cleaning the holy river and ensuring its unfettered flow, were launched simultaneously at 103 locations in five basin states of the river - Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, besides Delhi and Haryana through which Ganga’s tributary Yamuna passes.
Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Uma Bharati and Mahesh Sharma and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat launched 43 such projects in Haridwar.
Noting “wrong planning” resulted in high pollution level in Ganga, Union Water Resources Minister Bharati reiterated commitment of the Modi government to taking corrective steps to cleanse the river which she termed as “pride of the world and country”.
“The Ganga has not been polluted because of untreated water as much as because of wrong planning. Projects being launched under Namami Gange are corrective steps to atone for what has been done over the years to dirty the river,” she said at the event. “We will achieve what has been resolved,” she told the gathering, according to an official statement.
Announcing that the Centre is mulling a legislation, called the Ganga Act, for the success of Namami Gange, Bharati said industries will not just be barred from dumping untreated waste into the holy river, but treated water will also be diverted for irrigation purposes.
The preliminary draft of the Act will be sent to the states for their opinion and the final draft will be prepared based on it, she said.
Bharati also renewed her pledge to begin a ‘Ganga Padayatra’ (foot march) in October this year to create awareness among the people about advantages of a ‘Clean Ganga’ and how they could contribute to it.
The minister said those found dumping industrial waste into the Ganga will be sent to jail. She said that Namami Gange will achieve its objective by 2018 but its effects will be visible by the end of this year.
Union Transport Minister Gadkari said the government will install 60 sewage treatment plants and launch 50 other big projects under the mission later this year.
Terming the Ganga as “national heritage”, Gadkari said the goal of a ‘Clean Ganga’ cannot be achieved without public participation.
The Union Transport Minister also underscored the need for educating school and college students towards keeping the river clean and urged youths to contribute to the cause voluntarily.
On his part, Sharma announced that the Tourism and Culture Ministry will launch a ‘e-tourism programme’ along Ganga ghats within three months.
Extending Uttarakhand’s support to the 43 centrally sponsored projects to be implemented in the northern state, Rawat demanded the Centre approve Rs 10,000 crore water security scheme of the state to make available clean water in areas between Rishikesh and Haridwar, the statement said.
“We will do in right earnest whatever task is assigned to us to keep the Ganga clean and its flow uninterrupted,” he said, adding Uttarakhand is the first state to give a bonus for tree plantation which is crucial for the success of the programme.
On his government’s water conservation efforts, Rawat said clean Ganga water will soon be available in Haridwar and Uttarkashi and laid emphasis on a “holistic approach” to cleanse the river.
Claiming that the practice of open defecation has been brought to an end at 45 per cent of the places in the state, Rawat said efforts are on to make the rest of the state, especially villages on the banks of the Ganga and its tributaries, open defecation-free.
Meanwhile, the government also launched a song, ‘Namami Gange Anthem’, composed by brothers Srikrishna and Ramkumar Mohan. An application which will help monitor level of pollution in the river was also launched during the programme.
National Mission for Clean Ganga Mission Director Rajat Bhargava also attended the event in Haridwar.