In this post, we will take a comparative study of the work done for River Ganga by the former Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh and the present Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.
Mr. Manmohan Singh used to say that “Ganga is my mother.” Similarly, soon after assuming the office of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi had also said that “Ganga has called me, now we don’t have to take anything from the Ganga and only have to give it. Let's now see what they both have done for the Ganga in their own tenure.
Construction of Tehri Dam was started during the period of Narasimha Rao of Congress. The government of A. B. Vajpayee came into power in 1999. At that time, question was raised whether the dam on the Ganga has a negative impact on the spiritual power of Ganga? For this issue, Mr. Vajpayee formed a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi to look at spirituality of Ganga and also the possibility of the Tehri Dam becoming a threat due to earthquake. Four members from Vishwa Hindu Parishad were members of this committee. (See report 1 below). For the spiritual value of the Ganga, the Committee said that a pipe of ten centimeters (about 4 inch) would be placed inside the dam, which will be sufficient to ensure the continuous flow - Aviralta of the Ganga. It also gave green signal to Tehri from the earthquake point of view.
The need of Aviralta is because stagnant water starts fermenting and its spiritual power gets extinguished. Also, the fish cannot migrate due to the dam and they start decreasing. Mahaseer fish has become extinct above the Tehri Dam in river Ganga.
Sanand Swami Ji (Dr. GD Agarwal, Former Professor, IIT Kanpur) says that construction of the dams of Lohri Nagpala, Bhairav Ghati and Pala Manari started after submission of the M M Joshi report. He believes that when the members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad agreed that the construction of the Tehri Dam would not kill the spiritual power of the Ganga, then the road to build other dams on the Ganga was opened. Although Joshi report was originally about Tehri Dam, it had a long-term impact on other projects on the Ganga.
Mr. Manmohan Singh formed the "National Ganga River Basin Authority" in 2009 as a result of the fasting by Shri Sanand Swami. Ten expert members had full membership in this Authority. Among these, persons like Rashid Siddiqui, Sunita Narayan, Rajendra Singh, B.D. Tripathi and RK Sinha were appointed.
In 2016, Shri Narendra Modi reconstituted the NGRBA. The members of the new Authority were only Chief Minister and the Union Minister. It was provided that the Authority could discuss with experts. The role of experts was downgraded from full member to only giving suggestions when sought, (See report 2 below)
Mr. Manmohan Singh cancelled the Pala Maneri, Bhairav Ghati and Lohari Nagpala hydro projects under construction on the Bhagirathi, a main tributary of Ganga (See report 3 below).In contrast Shri Nitin Gadkari, Water Resource Minister of the Modi government said that government will resume the closed projects soon.
Recently Mr Gadkari has given the statement that no new projects will be started on the Ganga anymore. He has simultaneously said that the work on stalled projects will be started soon. So it is not clear whether the above three projects that were cancelled by Mr. Manmohan Singh will be resumed or not.
Manmohan Singh's government had given the task of making the Ganga River Basin Management Plan to Consortium of seven IITs. IITs made this plan and submitted to the Central Government in January 2015. In this plan, it was said that it is necessary to maintain longitudinal connectivity or continuity of the flow of the Ganga without any obstruction.
(quote 4 - dams and barrages must permit longitudinal connectivity and allow E-Flows (Environmental Flows) in rivers. Towards this end, a method for ensuring longitudinal river connectivity with E-Flows passage through dams/barrages is suggested. A comprehensive set of criteria has also been proposed to define environmental clearance requirements for dams/ barrages based on 4 categories of their environmental impacts. - Ganga River Basin Management Plan - 2015). (See report 4 below)
IITs said that any such project should not be approved so that the longitudinal connectivity of Ganga is disrupted. But today the Modi Government does not make any mention of this report and has not taken any decision on it. CAG has said in this connection:
“National Mission for clean ganga could not finalise the long-term action plans even after more than six and half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institute of Technology. As a result, National Mission of Clean Ganga does not have a river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than eight years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification” - CAG report 2016) (See report 5 below)
Mr. Manmohan Singh Government formed a committee under the chairmanship of Shri B.K. Chaturvedi to consider hydropower projects under construction on Ganga. This committee decided that hydroelectric projects have to leave 20 to 30 percent of the water as continuous environmental flows. (See report 6 below). In a petition filed in National Green Trabunal, the Government of Kerala has said that MOEF is implementing this recommendation:
(quote – Ministry of Environmental, forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is suggesting “Minimum environmental flow release would be 20% of average of four months of lean period and 20% to 30% of flows during non-lean and non-monsoon period corresponding to 90% dependable year. The cumulative environmental flow releases including spillage during the monsoon period should be about 30% of the cumulative inflows during the monsoon period coressponding to 90% dependable year” while according environmental clearance from hydro electic projects.) (See report 7 below)
Even after four years have passed in this, the Modi Government has not taken any step towards implementing 20-30% environmental flows in existing projects such as Tehri, Vishnu Prayag, Maneri Bhali, Srinagar, etc.
The plan to carry freight on the Ganga is very old. But till 2014, Mr. Manmohan Singh did not take any effective steps in this direction. Soon after Shri Narendra Modi came to power, in September 2014, the invitation for making of DPR of National Waterway-1 was issued, loan from the World Bank was taken and the project is today being speeded up.
Sewage Treatment Plant:
As far as sewage treatment plants are concerned, they are in much better condition as before. Satisfactory work is going on Mr Modi's government. Although the people of Banaras say that in the last few years, the water of the Ganga has become cleaner during the Modi Government, also the work of discharging sewage in the Ganga reduced . The IIT Consortium had suggested that the sewage going to the Ganga should be cleaned and used for irrigation. This report was given in January 2015 during Mr Modi's time. As per Central Pollution Control Board:
The estimated sewage generation from Class I cities and Class II towns (as per 2001 census) is 29129 MLD, which is expected to be 33212 MLD at present assuming 30% decadal growth in urban population. Against this, there exist STPs having 6190 MLD capacity while another 1743 MLD capacity is being added. Thus, the existing treatment capacity is just 18.6 % of present sewage generation and another 5.2 % capacity is being added. However, the actual capacity utilization of STPs is only 72.2% and as such only 13.5 % of the sewage is treated. This clearly indicates dismal position of sewage treatment, which is the main cause of pollution of rivers and lakes. To improve the water quality of rivers and lakes, there is an urgent need to increase sewage treatment capacity and its optimum utilization. (See here)
Now the reader may decide who really is working for rejuvenation of the Ganga.
- Committee by A.B.Vajpayee.
- M.M.joshi committee members.
- cancelled projeccts- Report.
- Ganga River Basin Management Plan - 2015.
- CAG Report - 2016.
- Petition on NGT.