Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in Varanasi and his decision to retain the seat — and not Vadodara — and his choice of Uma Bharati, a known Ganga devotee, as the minister in charge of the river’s rejuvenation plan, gave many the hope that better days are here for India’s rivers. With the belief that the NDA would come up with a holistic roadmap for the river, NGOs participated in the launch of ‘Namami Gange’, which is a part of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) programme. It was not just us: The Supreme Court has also been pushing the government to come up with an effective Ganga rejuvenation plan.
In 2008, the UPA had declared Ganga as ‘national river’ and in 2009 set up the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the executive arm of the NGRBA, was set up in 2011. An expert group (IIT Consortium) was asked in 2010 to develop a Ganga River Basin Management Plan (GRBMP).
In September 2014, when a livid Supreme Court lamented that the Ganga probably would not be cleaned even in the next 200 years, it was told by the NDA government that “restoring ecological sanctity of the river will be the prime focus...” of the government’s efforts. The final version of the IIT report became public in January 2015.
Instead of going ahead with the IIT recommendations, the Centre has now developed a Rs 20,000-crore plan, which, unfortunately, is a copy of the much-maligned Ganga Action Plan (GAP). There is only one difference, it has a new name: Namami Gange. Like the GAP, the new plan focuses on pollution abatement infrastructure strategies. There is no mention on how to improve the ecological health of the river. There is not even a word on how to restore the river’s environmental flow, which is vital for the river’s rejuvenation. There is no reference to the IITC’s recommendations, as had been promised to the Supreme Court.
Regrettably this new plan is ‘old wine in a new bottle’ and comes as a huge disappointment to all of us.
(Manoj Misra is convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. The views expressed are personal.)