The Namami Gange project of NMCG not only focuses on rejuvenating and restoring river Ganga but its tributaries as well with focus on maintaining bio-diversity, says Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga in an interview with Ritika Srivastava of Elets News Network (ENN).
Shed some light on the Namami Gange project.
When we talk about Namami Gange, we would like to tell you exactly what this mission and this is an integrated mission. This is not a mission limited to Ganga but its tributaries. So it may be Yamuna, Gomti or river Damodar.
Ganga cleaning has been going on and people have been attempting for a very long time. Earlier there used to be Ganga Action Plan, Gomti Action Plan, Yamuna Action plan and for each river there used to be a plan. For each plan there used to be a phase like Ganga Action Plan1, Ganga Action Plan2 and for Yamuna River there used to Yamuna Action Plan 1, Plan2.
We brought all of them under one umbrella mission because earlier we used to have system thinking, combined thinking, and it became very difficult to work in the fragmented way. Therefore to solve all these problems collectively, the Namami Gange was originated and integrated everything.
When we look at industrial pollution, sewage pollution and then we also find a component for sustainable agriculture which is processed through chemical fertilizers that further leads to the propagation of pollution.
Afforestation is the need for today in bringing a huge impact that can lead to a cleaner and greener environment. By planting sapling near the banks of the river that can generate better rain, more water. The focus should be on improving the water quantity in the river which is popularised by the name of Aviral Ganga. This mission aims to not only clean Ganga but all of its tributaries.
The next target is improving the connectivity of the rivers through river-front development, modernising of the ghats, better amenities and thus that is one aspect. There is a lot of life within the river that is aquatic life and people generally ignore in witnessing the difficulty faced by aquatic species and so we also need to conserve them. Thus, we have huge support from the constitution supported by IIT. A lot of these things are reversed with science based, and events based.
What are some of the recent initiatives taken by NMCJ in cleaning the river Ganga and how are those being executed?
The overall approach of this mission lies in cleaning all the tributaries of Ganga. We have taken some initiatives which can make Ganga pollution free. The primary source of pollution is sewage and we looked at what happened earlier in the past five years and tried to understand the reason why we couldn’t do it at that time. The major reason why previous mission remained incomplete lied due to the lack of financial funding.
But as of now, we have got funding for mission of Rs 20,000 crore for five years. The social structure is such that money does not lapse and it stays with the NMCJ so that we can plant for five years.
We looked at all the towns surrounding Ganga and looked at the sewage profile and scrutinise that how much is generated and how much is left. Our primary focus is on some of the major cities for the complete project. Almost all the advanced projects are there in Uttrakhand and 19 out of 30 projects have been completed. All the projects are likely be completed this year. The major cities are Haridwar and Rishikesh.
The two STPs which are under construction will also be completed by this year. One is at Jagjitpur at 68 and the other one is at Sarai. The projects in Sarai and Jagjitpur are likely to be completed by May and July respectively.
In the states of Uttrakhand and Jharkhand, complete infrastructure is ready. This project is not going to be maintained for one or two years but for 15 years. Same situation is in Kanpur, Patna, Prayagraj and many other cities.
Then take-over operation of all the STPs includes maintaining and operating them for fifteen years. So that has been done because sewage from treatment plants used to directly pour into the Ganga. That has been completely diverted. We have started utilising the capacity of STP because many of them were starting at low-STP or one-third-STP. These are some of the initiatives which are even implemented in the Prayagraj.
These are some of the initiatives which led the completion of projects on time and by maintaining the quality of projects for 15 years. In Patna also, a similar strategy is implemented. We have got projects for all 18 towns in Bihar. The state does not have much sewerage capacity along with Ganga term. With our projects, we are already increasing it 10 times. So almost all the things are being created in Namami Gange and three STPs will be created in Patna.
Our other initiative is on bio-diversity sector wherein we are focusing on bio-diversity colourisation along with the wildlife ritual.
In order to treat the industrial pollution in Kanpur, we are starting the construction of common effluent treatment plant. Another initiative has been monitoring and enforcement on the industries. We are involving third party agencies and institutes like IITs, NITs etc.
How is NMCG working towards making the areas, through which river Ganga flows, attractive for tourists?
Ganga, the holy river changes its shape and beauty whenever it passes through different cities. Even the name by which river Ganga is known among the people changes across the states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or West Bengal. We are working on reviving the good water quality because it works as one attracting constituent for mesmerising tourists. Facilitating better amenities like clean ghats and pure drinking water has led this place to gain tourist destination and has summed up a very pleasant experience. We are also trying to bring a floating museum on the Ganga and in Varanasi there is a floating museum. The two advantages of creating this museum apart from attracting tourists’ lies in educating them about the holy river of India and on other hand will generate a sense of responsibility among them to keep it clean.
A similar strategy was planned while organising the Kumbh Mela and one can observe it did wonders in attracting tourists and was celebrated with much enthusiasm and joy. For creative promotions of Kumbh Mela we partnered with different agencies for painting the ghats and cities and this creativity fascinated a quite large proportion of tourists as compared to the previous years. This thinking of ours also strike a spark in the Patna and one can see it how beautifully the painters crafted their art on the antiquated buildings and now they look like renovated forts and has added more to the national glory.
In Patna, people can walk around the river-front which has been developed under this project. Our organisation has even done some painting over there and has created audio-visual centres over there. In addition to all these, we have a beautiful Ganga anthem which is played along with Ganga aarti.
What are the major challenges faced by you while planning and executing these initiatives?
Owing to the magnitude of the project, the gravity of the challenges is also large. Mapping of all the villages and towns around Ganga and in understanding what sort of work is required and expanding the forest area are major challenges for us. Through the help of various reputed institutions we were able to complete all the sets of requirements needed for initiating this mission.
The other big challenge that lies in front of us is bringing this entire mission is in making people realise that their contribution can lead to the withdraw of pollutants and create it a pollutant free river.
Supposedly if today a sewage treatment plant (STP) is created, then for another 15 years it would be the job of local bodies to reassure that it functions properly. The role of local people living along the banks of Ganga River is bigger because they visit the ghats for recreation, cremation, performing other ritual activities and owe a big responsibility on their shoulders to keep it clean during these durations. Making everybody a Ganga lover was our major target and we successfully let it complete.
Another challenge for us was to keep the river in the middle of the urbanisation. Our history has told us all cities develop on the bank of river. But cities turned into megacities and somewhere led rivers to disappear and Yamuna River is one such example.
Reservation and conservation of drinking water is another challenge. When Ganga comes to Haridwar, around 70 to 80 percent of its water is used for the agriculture purposes only. Thus we need to convey farmers to use water effectively. Our water efficiency is not even 40 percent and if we increase it to 20 percent, then not a single drop of water will go back into the river.