Two experts have flayed Minister Uma Bharti's plan for the Ganga clean up, starting with the recent Ganga Manthan

Features Friday, July 11, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth and Monalisa Das | The News Minute | July 11, 2014 | 7.13 am IST The River Ganga has been part of the public imagination for a long time. More recently, it was made part of the political imagination as well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi using the Ganga constantly during his election campaign from Varanasi constituency.  The Ganga is more than just another river in India; for some it means livelihood, for others the river is a Goddess. For many, the Ganga is a destination to wash off one’s sins. But a lot more is washed away in the Ganga than just sins: the Ganga is now considered to be one of the most polluted rivers in the world.  On July 7, the National Mission for Clean Ganga organized Ganga Manthan, a national dialogue on Ganga, in Delhi. The meet, which was attended by a thousand people included sadhus, NGOs and environmental activists. It was meant to act as a platform for discussion among all these groups who would later come up with suggestions on how to clean up the Ganga. Uma Bharti, Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, was present at the conclave along with Nitin Gadkari, Transport Minister.  Both assured that work towards a ‘nirmal’ and ‘aviral’ (clean and perennial) Ganga would be carried out efficiently and in a timely manner. From proposals to construct barrages at every 100 km of the river to using the latest and most effective technologies, getting World Bank assistance for development of the Allahabad-Haldia corridor, to ensuring no shortage of funds for the cleaning of the river, promises made at the meet were aplenty. An astronomical Rs 80,000 crore is expected to be spent on cleaning the majestic river by the new government. However, the previous government’s Ganga Action Plan (GAP) – costing a whopping Rs 20,000 crore – is considered to be a total failure. The question now, is how different and effective the new government’s plans announced at the Ganga Manthan will be?  Two experts, who attended the programme, severely criticized the whole affair for various reasons. Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), recently published a blog on the organisation’s website pointing out areas in which he felt that the government could be going wrong.  Starting with fundamental questions, about the government’s understanding of what a river is, to the problems Gadkari’s proposal for multiple barrages on the Ganga might create for bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh, seeking loans from the World Bank and assistance from the Indian Institutes of Technology, Thakkar explained each one in detail. Read the full report here: Ganga clean up more about governance than technology: Himanshu Thakkar Expert Member of the National River Ganga Basin Authority B D Tripathi said that the entire exercise was pointless. He said that since 1986, everybody was agreed on ensuring that the Ganga reached the sea and instead of discussing ways and means to achieve this, the programme simply echoed a 25-year-old refrain. Read the full report here: Ganga Manthan: A churning that discussed no way to achieve 25-year-old clean up goal
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