Focusing on local needs and aspirations along with innovative bold approach on Private Public Partnership could be the two key factors that propel Modi Government’s initiative to Clean Ganga to successful implementations unlike its previous incarnations says India Inc.
The Ganga is India’s holiest and longest river. It offers water and other means of sustenance to about 500 million people across 11 states along its length of about 2,500 km. But it is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Every day, more than 3.5 billion litres of sewage and 14,000 tonnes of solid waste flow into the river. Only a tiny fraction of this is treated. Even more scary is the possibility that these mind boggling figures may be the tip of the iceberg. There are no reliable statistics for solid and liquid waste, all of it untreated, flowing into the river from the 1,650 village panchayats located on the banks of the river.
Another major cause of pollution is the practice of cremating the dead along the banks of the Gang and then releasing the remains of the dead body, along with wood and other organic matter from the funeral pyres, into the river. Every day, tens of thousands of dead bodies are cremated along the banks of the holy river and this adds to the level of pollution.
Previous efforts at trying to clean the Ganga have been spectacular failures. First mooted by the Rajiv Gandhi government 30 years ago, these efforts were largely directed at creating sewage treatment plants in major towns and cities. But these have remained non-functional or under-utilised thanks to bureaucratic apathy and lack of any efforts to involve local communities along the river in the clean-up drive. Then, there were no plans or efforts to treat the solid and liquid discharge from non-urban sources into the river.
All other initiatives to clean the Ganga over the years have suffered from the same lacunae.
The Namami Gange project, unveiled by the Narendra Modi government, is by far the most comprehensive and dynamic plan to clean up the river by focusing on the rejuvenation of the river, especially in stretches that go dry during some parts of the year. Then, the plan includes regenerating the ecology of the river, creation of “water parks” to revive the habitat of the endangered Gangetic dolphins and the gharial as well as developing the river as a waterway connecting Allahabad in North India to Haldia near the Bay of Bengal.
The government has decided to invite the corporate sector as well as local citizen groups to take over the responsibility of setting up and running sewage and other effluent treatment plants along the river. It is also working out an innovative financing model whereby the government will provide a small amount upfront but the rest of the costs will have to be met from 15-year annuities.
Also, efforts are being made to replace the open wooden funeral pyres with electric crematoria, which will considerably reduce the debris that flows into the river.
Another key Modi initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, will also play a big role in the clean-up of the Ganga. Since millions of people defecate in the open along the river, this is another major cause of pollution. Successfully transforming this age old practice will go a long way towards reducing the toxins that are discharged into the river every day.
It’s a mammoth project and will begin to show results only after a few years. But the government has made a good beginning. Meanwhile, the clean Ganga initiative will throw up multi-billion dollar opportunities for project companies and consultants as well as equipment suppliers.
And these will keep the corporate sector in India as well as in Europe, the US and Asia interested. A clean, pollution-free Ganga can not only improve the lives of millions of people who depend on it but it can also provide millions of additional jobs and billions of dollars in contracts to the many existing and future stakeholders.Tagged: Clean Ganga, Clean india, Narendra Modi, Swachh Bharat, Waste management