Features Friday, July 11, 2014 - 05:30
Monalisa Das | The News Minute | July 11, 2014 | 7.33 am IST This report is part of a larger report: Experts flay Uma Bharti's Ganga Manthan clean up plan 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 to where the government could be going wrong.  IIT’s expertise and assistance Thakkar feels that the rejuvenation of the Ganga is more about governance than about technology. “Of course technology is one of the factors that the IITs could contribute to, but they can’t be given charge of the entire project. They do not look into governance”, he asserts. Do we understand what a river is? The most basic aspect of cleaning up a river is often not well-understood, he says. Rejuvenating the Ganga means more than just cleaning up its waters. It also means focusing on the properties of the river and the measures then need to be taken around those.  Thakkar, recounts his experience at the meet: “At Ganga Manthan, in post lunch session in the room where the fourth group for public representatives was sitting, I was sitting next to an official of Ministry of Water Resources and I casually asked him does the ministry of water resources understand what is a river? He first said yes, but when I said you are only dealing with water and nowhere in your work have we seen any value for rivers, he said ok, but we can do it in collaboration with MoEF. The trouble is, even MoEF does not understand rivers”.  It is also necessary to define the path of the river so that it has enough space to flow, he says.  Building barrages and the help of World Bank Gadkari said that proposals have been made to build barrages at every 100 km from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Halia in West Bengal. Thakkar says that the government has proposed to spend Rs 6000 crore but, nothing about this plan is in the public domain. The Farakka barrage that lies on the Allahabad-Haldia 1500 km long stretch has been a contentious issue between Bangladesh and India, as the barrage diverted a part of the river water, affecting the flow of the river into Bangladesh. Barrages can affect the river in several ways- both upstream and downstream. The costs and risks should be kept in mind while sanctioning such structures, Thakkar writes.  World Bank Assistance The ministry has also sent a proposal to the World Bank Rs 4000 crore for the development of the Allahabad-Haldia corridor. Thakkar raises concerns about the involvement of the World Bank, which he claims, has played a significant role in destroying many rivers in India. “The World Bank’s track record in rejuvenating rivers across the world is almost nil. They have never been able to rejuvenate any river”, Thakkar told The News Minute.  The World Bank has always been funding Indian projects, but Thakkar points out that these are loans with interest. “India is a good customer for the World Bank”, he says, adding that the dynamics of World Bank funding has a political nature.
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