India on Tuesday signed an agreement under which the World Bank will provide $1 billion to supplement the government's efforts to clean up the Ganga, the pact ironically coming a day after the death of Swami Nigamanand who had been fasting for two-and-a-half months to save the river from pollution.
The agreement also seeks to strengthen rural livelihood and conserve biodiversity.
Environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh, while signing the agreement said: "The objective of the Ganga project is that by 2020 no municipal sewage and industrial effluent will be let into the river without treatment. With help from the World bank, we are taking a big step forward in achieving this mission".
According to the minister, a collaborative body of the central and state governments, the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) will implement the National Ganga River Basin Project with the assistance of the World Bank.
The project will focus on building and strengthening the NGRBA’s related institutions at the central and state levels, establishing a world-class Ganga Knowledge Centre, enhancing river basin management and financing select investments to reduce point-source pollution in a sustainable manner, the minister said.
“Today, only about one-third of the sewage generated by the towns and cities on the mainstream of the river is treated and a significant volume of untreated or inadequately treated industrial effluents is also discharged into the Ganga,” Ramesh said.
Of the project cost of Rs.7,000 crore ($1.5 billion), the Indian government's share will be Rs.5,100 crore and that of five state governments - Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal - will be Rs. 1,900 crore.
The World Bank will support India by providing technical assistance and financing of $1 billion.
A 34-year-old ascetic, Swami Nigamanand, died in Dehradun on Monday after fasting to save the Ganga from pollution.
"The saint was fasting for the Ganga since the last many days. He laid down his life for the Ganga. I pay my tribute to Swami Nigamananda," Ramdev told reporters.