Rajiv Sinha, Professor and Head, Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Kanpur shares his views on the much-talked about Ganga Action Plan.
What have been the recommendations made in the Ganga Action Plan project?
We have suggested a series of recommendations based on the basic principles of ecology-based river management of the Ganga. The implementation and follow-up has to be done by the Central government in collaboration with the State governments. Our grand vision is as follows:
Geologic Entity: The Ganga River system is the Earth´s creation from a very long time ago; it may not be repairable if damaged.
Ecological Entity: The Ganga River system is a delicately structured balance between various living species and the physical environment, achieved by nature over thousands of years and vulnerable to irreversible changes.
What are the kind of investments we are looking at in the project?
Some of the major investments which are required are as follows (these are not in order of priority):
River front development-creation of buffer zones for protection of ´river space´ and for reducing flood risk;
Creation of off-stream storages, both surface as well as sub-surface storage, to collect excess rainwater as well as recharge groundwater;
Creation of a large network of monitoring stations;
Creation of a large network of waste treatment facilities (following zero discharge philosophy).
There is scepticism regarding the completion of the project work within the time allocated. What measures are being taken to fast-track the project?
The delay in the project completion was primarily due to non-availability of the necessary data required. Several Ministries were involved in collecting the data and the official process to acquire some critical data sets (if not all) took more than a year. The final report of the project has now been submitted. Regarding the time required to complete all the actions suggested in our report, it is up to the government machinery to fast-track the process. We do believe that all concerned are working with all sincerity, but there are constraints due to inter-ministerial issues, State government´s involvement and several others.
What kind of global support is being taken in terms of technology or funds to make this project a success?
In some sectors, we have recommended PPP model where players from across the world could be involved. A good example is sewage treatment facilities where clean water out of the treatment plants can be sold to industries.
How much has been the support from the private sector for this initiative?
Not much so far. Cleaning the Ganga is generally considered as the government´s responsibility even though the cause of pollution and mismanagement could be rooted in industrialization. This is the biggest irony of the situation. The industries do not even think responsibly, by not discharging hazardous pollutants into the river, forget about participating in the cleaning programme.
What are the major challenges do you see in the execution of the project?
A serious challenge is to increase the awareness of the general public towards the river. A realisation must come to each and every citizen of this country that keeping the river in good health is in their own interest. The second challenge is in terms of Centre-State coordination which also has political implications. However, the Ganga has been declared as a National River, so the Centre should exercise enough powers to implement the strategies. The third challenge is financial resources required to implement this project-this is where the private sector has to chip in with utmost sincerity.
What policy changes would you recommend for this project to succeed?
We have proposed a full-fledged Ganga River Basin Act. The implementation, monitoring, review and evaluation of environmental problems and interventions on a long-term basis are therefore recommended through an independent commission. Moreover, since rivers are prima facie inter-State subjects as per the Constitution, the said commission would need adequate resources and authority (under relevant provisions of the Constitution) to coordinate and oversee the activities of multiple sectoral organizations and informal sectors of society insofar as they affect the River Ganga. GRBMP, therefore, includes the functional requirements of a commission that needs to be established by an Act of Parliament, to enable an enduring mechanism for sustainable growth in the National River Ganga Basin.
How much and what kind of an impact will this project have on the water & wastewater management industry of the country?
All implementation strategies for wastewater treatment should be done through PPP model, so industries have a big role to play. Some of the important sectors related to this may include: management of solid and liquid waste generated from domestic/commercial Sources; riverfront development; floodplain management and rejuvenation of water bodies; management of solid and liquid waste generated from industrial sources and management of polluted agricultural runoff.
- GARIMA PANT