When Minister for Environment and Forests challenged the directors of 13 Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai last month to de-pollute river Ganga, little did he know that the IITs would take up the challenge to come up with the most exhaustive research plan ever to clean the Ganga.
The IITs involved in the plan sidelined the global bidding process, initiated by the government. As many as 10 foreign companies were vying for the multi-billion contract for cleaning the river.
The project is called Ganga River Basin Management Plan. It will cover 11 states and some other rivers as well.
This will be a first in history when IITs will take part in research to save the polluted Ganga, the longest river in India. The project will have a budget of Rs 40,000 crore or $8 billion.
IIT-Kanpur has submitted a proposal to the Environment Ministry that details the role of other IITs in the project and the nature of research that will be undertaken. The ministry has agreed. The project will be completed in one year.
"It is a new high for the IITs, notably the IIT-Kanpur. We have the framework for the study ready and just waiting for the go-ahead," said Dr Vinod Tare, appointed the chief resource person and coordinator for the project.
This study is different from the earlier two phases of Ganga Action Plan (GAP). It proposes a basin-wise approach for cleaning up and restoring the river, as opposed to the city-wise approach adopted in GAP.
"Basin has its own capacities for water and it will help the scientists in throwing up the best possible and suited plan," Dr Tare said. "Scientists will study water resource management, geomorphology, eco-bio diversity, impact of dams, pollution, sources. In a nutshell, not a single angle will be skipped," he explained.
IIT-Kanpur, the nodal centre for the plan, will be working with IITs in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Roorkee, Guwahati and Kaharagpur.
The IIT group on 'Clean Ganga Mission' project was finalised by the 13 directors of IITs who will meet again on April 25 in Kanpur.
The IITs and their directors are rallying to make the plan a success.
Many in the government weren't comfortable with the idea of engaging foreign companies - one of the reasons for roping in the IITs. "IITs are aware of greater responsibilities being bestowed and scale of the plan. All the issues were discussed in detail and everyone is immensely excited," said Dr Tare.