CAG’s Audit Report “Rejuvenation of River Ganga (NamamiGange)” was tabled in Parliament on 19 December and it’s a familiar tale of woe and apathy towards the lifeline of North India. In September, the charge of the pet project of PM Modi was taken over from Uma Bharti and given to Nitin Gadkari as the program was plagued by severe problems. Bharti passed the blame to the CM Yogi government in UP, citing delays and roadblocks.
This CAG report, a performance audit of the projects, progress and monitoring mechanisms, highlights various shortcomings and suggests solutions for the same.
- Situation worse now than in 2013, “in six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, Dissolved Oxygen (DO) declined from 2012-13 levels.”
- “Total coliform (a bacteria) levels in all the cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal was very high; ranging between six to 334 times higher than the prescribed levels.”
- “Specific parameters for water quality monitoring of the river Ganga have not been prescribed by National Mission for Clean Ganga.”
- “Against an amount of Rs 198.48 crore sanctioned to Central Pollution Control Board for three projects on monitoring and evaluation, expenditure of Rs 14.77 crore (7.44 percent) only was incurred as of March 2017.”
- “Only eight to 63 percent of the funds were utilized during 2014-15 to 2016-17, as compared to Revised Estimate. Funds amounting to Rs 2,133.76 crore, 422.13 crores and 59.28 crores were lying unutilized with National Mission for Clean Ganga, various State Programme Management Groups and Executing Agencies/ Central Public Sector Undertakings respectively as on 31 March 2017.”
- “A corpus of Rs 198.14 crore (as of 31 March 2017) was available in the Clean Ganga Fund. However, National Mission for Clean Ganga could not utilize any amount out of the Clean Ganga Fund and the entire amount was lying in banks due to non-finalization of the action plan.”
- “National Mission for Clean Ganga could not finalize the long-term action plans even after more than six and half years of the signing of an agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology. As a result, National Mission for Clean Ganga does not have a river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than eight years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification.”
- “River Conservation Zones were not identified in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, until May 2017. In Uttarakhand, the identification was in progress.”
- “Out of 46 Sewage Treatment Plants, Interception & Diversion projects and Canal works costing Rs 5,111.36 crore, there were delays in 26 projects costing Rs 2,710.14 crore due to delay in execution of projects, non-availability of land, slow progress of work by contractors and under-utilization of Sewage Treatment Plants. Projects relating to Ghats and Crematoria works suffered from non-obtaining of requisite clearances.”
- “Except Uttarakhand, the other four States namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal could not achieve the target of construction of 100 percent Individual Household Latrines as of 31 March 2017.”
- “There was an overall shortage of manpower, ranging from 44 to 65 percent during 2014-15 to 2016-17 in National Mission for Clean Ganga. In SMGs, the overall shortage ranged between 20 to 89 percent. National Mission for Clean Ganga did not initiate any proposal for strengthening the human resources of State Programme Management Groups.”
- Even the under-utilized funds were mismanaged as, “NMCG approved pay scales and adopted the levels B, C, D, and E without following the employment structure identical to Autonomous Bodies and Societies under Government of India, as detailed in Table 7.4.”
The CAG report recommends better coordination among the plethora of agencies and ministries at center and state level who share the responsibility in this PM Modi-led initiative. It also recommends focusing on Annual Plans and adhering to them properly by a frequent meeting of monitoring and evaluating bodies. As the river chokes to a slow death, this government initiative seems to be headed for the same fate as suffered by Ganga Action Plan launched by Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985 and later efforts by successive governments.