In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed his nomination papers from Varanasi. Thousands of supporters streamed into the heart of the nation’s city of temples, welcoming him enthusiastically. Overwhelmed by the shower of love, PM Modi was quoted as saying, “Mujhe toh Maa Ganga ne Varanasi bulaya hai (Mother Ganga has called me to Varanasi).”
A month after becoming Prime Minister, he set aside Rs 20,000 crore for Namami Gange to be spent on reviving river Ganga in 5 years.
But earlier this year in February, the National Green Tribunal criticised government agencies for wasting public money in the name of cleaning the Ganges. The Tribunal told the Center, “Not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far.”
Last year too, a Right To Information (RTI) appeal revealed 2,958 crore spent on Ganga clean-up without visible results.
Three years after Namami Gange, where do we stand?
Recently, pictures of garbage being dumped into the tributaries of Ganga surfaced online. Many took to social media to upload images of waste being thrown down a slope along the Alaknanda river, a tributary of the Ganga, at Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand.
Sources said that the Rudraprayag local body does not have any trenching ground and it dumps the garbage down a slope along the Alaknanda at a spot around 5 km from the main town. Similar cases have been reported from other hill towns as well in the past, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Responding to the issue, Namami Gange program director Raghav Langer said that solid waste management needs to be dealt with the urban local body concerned. But since the matter is serious, he has affirmed that the case will be referred to the District Magistrate and the state pollution control board.
In March this year, Rs 875 crore was set aside for a total of 21 scheme sanctioned by the Centre for speedy implementation of the program. Incidentally, four of these schemes, including one at Rudraprayag, were approved for pollution abatement works for Alaknanda to secure cleaner flow of the river downstream.
The Namami Gange programme in the state caters to 15 priority towns in seven districts located along the banks of the Ganga or its tributaries, which include Uttarkashi, Badrinath, Joshimath, Gopeshwar, Nandprayag, Karnaprayag, Gauchar, Rudraprayag, Srinagar, Kirtinagar, Devprayag, Tapovan, Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh and Haridwar.
Furthermore, the State Project Management Group for the program is contemplating to empanel a set of NGOs or social organisations to spread awareness and encourage community participation in conserving the River Ganga.
“Since we have limited manpower and availability of staff, so we are contemplating empanelment of various NGOs as support organizations to SPMG to carry out effective IEC (information, education and communication or awareness) activities,” Langer told to Hindustan Times. “The selected organisations will assist the SPMG in carrying out awareness activities,” he said, adding that the organisations will be empanelled for a period up till March 2018.
The Logical Indian community appeals to the government to judiciously utilise the Namami Gange funds and clean the River Ganga. It is the lifeline for millions of Indians and its incessant pollution is highly damaging to both lives and the environment.