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Ganga Act was presented to Central Minister Smt. Uma Bharti

After becoming the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi had said that we have nothing to take from Ganga; we have to give only to Ganga. In order to fulfill this commitment, he formed a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Giridhar Malviya, son of Madan Mohan Malviya and former Judge of Allahabad High Court, to draft a law for Ganga (See here). The draft has been given to the Government by Shri Malviya in April 2017. We discussed the draft with Sanand Swamiji (former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur). We are placing the main points of the draft as told by him before the reader.

Sanand Swamiji

The best part of the Ganga law (Chapter 1, section 3) is that the Ganga will get the status of the “National River” in the same way as the National Anthem "Jana Gana Mana", the National Bird “peacock” and the National Flag the "Tricolor."

Ganga was given the status of National River In 2008

The five tributaries meeting the Alaknanda at the Five Prayags in Uttarakhand have been included in the definition of Ganga: Dhauli Ganga at Vishnuprayaag, Nandakini at Nandprayag, Pindar at Karnprayag, Mandakini at Rudraprayag and Bhagirathi at Devprayag. Alaknanda is the original stream. The river is known as Ganga after meeting Bhagirathi in Dev Prayag (Chapter 1, section 4t). This is a positive part of the law. Even then, the Government should consider that the Son, Damodar, Mahananda and Chambal—that bring large amounts of water into the Ganga—could also be included in the definition of Ganga.

The draft Ganga Act has stipulated that continuity of the flow of the Ganga will be maintained. At the same time, barrages made for irrigation and hydropower projects have been accepted (Chapter 4, Section 7.7). Therefore, according to the draft, obstacles in the flow of the Ganga are accepted. Continuity only means that some water should be released continuously from the obstructions. It is like the bucket is filling with water from one side and water is continuously being released on the other side. The water is stagnant in the bucket. According to us this is not continuity in the flow. The continuity is required to enable the fish to migrate to their spawning grounds and to enable the sediment to flow downstream. The Mahseer migrates from the lower area of the river to upstream area for laying their eggs and these eggs develops to the small fishes there. Then these small fishes come down with water and grow up downstream. This migration is the part of the life cycle of these fishes. This movement is interrupted by the irrigation barrages and hydroelectric projects, which cause loss of fishes. Like mahseer fish was found to be 100 kg earlier, but it is now about 1 kg. The fishes play an important role in establishing the quality of Ganga water. The continuity established by the draft act does not enable fish migration hence is futile.

Ganga river is on the verge of extinction, Mahasir and Hilsa fishes

The water stagnant behind the dam like Tehri starts to ferment. It is producing poisonous gases like carbon monoxide and methane. Therefore, to rejunivate the Ganga it was necessary that the design of these projects should be changed so that the main stream of Ganga flows without any interruption of irrigation and hydropower barrages. This has not been considered in draft law. It has been suggested that the water quality of Ganga will be ensured. (Chapter 4, Section 8). But quality criteria considered in the draft are those used by the Central Pollution Control Board to meet drinking water standards. It is based on oxygen, turbidity, etc. These properties of river water are found in all the rivers of our country. But these parameters do not capture the special quality of the Ganga. Two studies of the special quality of the Ganga waters have been done. National Environmental Engineering Research Institute Nagpur found that there are unique “wide spectrum” bacteria (coliphage) in the Ganga water that destroy many types of harmful bacteria (coliform). Generally one type of coliphage destroys only one type of coliform.

The Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh found that the Ganga’s bacteria have pathogenic qualities, that is, they destroy many harmful bacteria. It was necessary that the standards of water quality for Ganga should have been established on the basis of these unique characteristics of Ganga water.

The draft says that 35 percent of the water should be released as environmental flow of the river (Chapter 4, section 7). We believe that the main purpose of the Ganga is spiritual and social. Therefore, at least 51 percent water should be released for spiritual needs, and 49 percent water should be used for irrigation and hydro power projects.

river can be divided like this for environmental flows

The draft provides that 5 experts will be included in the Council constituted under the law (Schedule 1, section 11) but the background of these experts have not been discussed. It is necessary that only 5 experts should be made members who are really dedicated to the Ganga.

It is a good initiative of the Government to establish a law for the Ganga. But unfortunately, even after one year of the Malviya Committee having submitted its report, the Government has not taken any steps to enact the law. (See below the details of Sanand Swamiji's detail on the Ganga Act)

 

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 Imoprtant Links:

  1. Ganga Act by Giridhar Malviya.
  2. words by Sanand Swamiji.

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