Ganga to be safe for bathing in 97 towns in 2 years: Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, NMCG Chief

The assessment from the country’s Ganga mission comes at a time when the Centre is looking to bring in a new Ganga-centric law with stiff penalties for polluting or damaging the river.

PTI
The NMCG has already begun sensitizing states and the Ganga committees chaired by District Magistrates to use existing laws to crack down on polluters.
New Delhi: Ganga waters along 97 towns on the river’s main stem will be restored to ‘bathing quality’ within two years, the Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, told ET.

The assessment from the country’s Ganga mission comes at a time when the Centre is looking to bring in a new Ganga-centric law with stiff penalties for polluting or damaging the river.

“Forty percent projects along the main stem of the Ganga in 97 towns (about 45 of the 113 projects) have been completed or near completion. We are very hopeful to bring in bathing water quality across the entire main stem of the Ganga within two years,” Mishra said.


“In Uttarakhand, up to Haridwar, our water quality already meets the prescribed bathing quality standards,” he added.

The `20,000 crore ‘Namami Gange’ project was announced five years ago for ‘abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of River Ganga and its tributaries’ by December 2020.

The Centre has estimated that nearly 100% of the project work has been completed in Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, while it is 50%-60% in Uttar Pradesh and about 30%-40% in West Bengal and 25%-30% in Bihar.
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Queried about the end-year target, Mishra pointed to the expanded scale of the current mission and legacy issues. “The 2020 target must be seen in light of the scale and size of the Mission vis-a-vis previous Ganga projects which suffered funding constraints and a piecemeal approach. We decided, instead, to bring in a more holistic and performance-oriented approach to each Ganga city, covering towns along both sides of the bank, involving private sector to ensure maintenance of facilities designed for next 15 years,” the NMCG director general said.

Since 2015-16, when funds were released for the mission, the NMCG has spent `9,500 crore on the project.

“We are also beginning to see results in Uttarakhand and even in Uttar Pradesh despite the tough challenges there. Our next focus will be on tributaries and already 40 projects have been sanctioned,” Mishra pointed out.

The Centre plans to introduce a Bill in Parliament to heavily penalise polluters. Inter-ministerial consultations have been conducted and it is likely to soon move for Cabinet approval.
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NMCG, meanwhile, is looking to ensure enforcement through another route.

Existing provisions under green laws - Environment Protection Act, Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2011 and Section 133 of the Indian Penal Code on causing ‘public nuisance’ – will be more actively wielded to check pollution in the Ganga.
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The NMCG has already begun sensitizing states and the Ganga committees chaired by District Magistrates to use existing laws to crack down on polluters.

“The proposed new law will bring special focus on the Ganga river. Heavy penalty will come for those causing ‘structural damage’ to the river and its course, there will be penalties also for deliberately polluting the river,” Mishra said.

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