Only about a fifth of ₹20,000 crore allotted for the National Clean Ganga Mission (NCGM) have been utilised till March 2018. That is roughly the same proportion of the sanctioned money utilised the same time last year. Amid complaints that the government’s marquee Ganga-cleaning exercise was dawdling, Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari had promised, in October 2017, a “visible change” in the Ganga water quality by 2019. At that time, only ₹2,901 crore — or 17% of the sanctioned ₹16,000 crore — had been spent.
A financial account from the NCGM says that as of March 2018, ₹20,601 crore had been sanctioned for 193 projects. So far, only ₹4,254 crore had actually been spent on their implementation. Figures for April are not immediately available.
About half the money, or ₹2,814 crore, had been spent on establishing sewage infrastructure. Only 24 of the 65 ‘entry-level’ projects — meant for cleaning the ghats and establishing new ones and cleaning the river front and the river surface — had been completed. They had been allotted ₹492 crore.
Ministry officials said that while delays characterised several major projects, there had been an uptick in the tenders being awarded in the last few months. Because of this, several of these projects would be rapidly completed in the year ahead.
About 12,000 MLD of sewage is emptied into the Ganga across 11 States, from Uttarakhand to West Bengal. At present, the capacity for sewage treatment is just 4,000 MLD; of this, 1,000 MLD is functional.
Coursing 2,500 km, the Ganga is the longest river within India’s borders. Its basin constitutes 26% of the country’s land mass (8,61,404 sq. km.) and supports 43% of its population. Even as the basin spreads across 11 States, five States are located along the river’s main stem: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Much of the river’s pollution load — chemical effluents, sewage, dead bodies, and excreta — comes from these States. Though the industrial pollution, volume-wise, accounts for about 20%, its toxic and non-biodegradable nature has a disproportionate impact. The industrial pollutants largely emanate from tanneries in Kanpur and distilleries, paper mills and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments. The municipal sewage, at a billion litres a day, accounts for 80% of the pollution load.
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