Cleaning the Ganga

Progress report of the centre’s Namami Gange programme

The Namami Gange programme, an integrated Ganga conservation mission, was conceptualised by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD&GR) in 2014. The programme aims to rejuvenate the Ganga river by consolidating all previous ongoing programmes under one collective intervention. It was approved by the central government on May 13, 2015, at a total cost of Rs 200 billion. The programme is presently active in five states through which the river largely passes – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal – and the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

In the past year or so, the programme has taken rapid strides with over 97 projects sanctioned and 127 million litres per day (mld) of treatment capacity created. Further, the government has been extending financial support for the programme in the form of budgetary allocations and making efforts to improve sewage management practices. In addition, to attract private expertise and ensure speedy implementation, the government is exploring the hybrid annuity-based public-private partnership (PPP) model for awarding projects. This model will also ensure that projects are structured in such a way so as to generate a stable revenue stream. The strong commitment and evident support of the central and state authorities will ensure that quality infrastructure is created and that there is timely completion of the programme.

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Programme background and objectives

The primary objective of the programme is to restore the health of the Ganga by maintaining continuous flow (Aviral Dhara), unpolluted flow (Nirmal Dhara) and its geological and ecological integrity. Both infrastructural and non-infrastructural interventions are being undertaken to meet this objective.

The Nirmal Dhara component focuses on sewage management. It includes the development of sewerage infrastructure in 118 urban habitations along the riverbank. The component also focuses on restricting the discharge of untreated sewage from rural areas and effluents from industries situated along the riverbank.

The Aviral Dhara intervention focuses on the restoration and conservation of wetlands, the regulation of development activities in river regulatory zones and the introduction of rational agricultural and irrigation practices.

Apart from these infrastructure-focused interventions, the Namami Gange programme also comprises non-infrastructure interventions to rejuvenate the Ganga. These include the conservation of biodiversity and aquatic life, the promotion of tourism and shipping in a sustainable manner, and the setting up of the Ganga Knowledge Centre.

Meanwhile, the MoWR, RD&GR has also identified certain short-term measures to contain pollution in the Ganga. These include rehabilitating and upgrading sewage treatment plants (STPs) along the river, ensuring 100 per cent coverage of sewerage infrastructure in select towns, developing ghats, crematoria and water quality monitoring facilities, building capacity of urban local bodies (ULBs) and conducting public outreach activities. As part of the programme, a total of 113 real-time water quality monitoring facilities will be set up along the river.

At the national level, the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) is the nodal agency for coordinating and implementing the Namami Gange programme. Reportedly, the government has now decided to replace the NGRBA with a new National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management).

Moreover, barring Jharkhand, each state has set up a state programme management group (SPMG) for implementing projects. The SPMGs will monitor the programme’s progress and report to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the implementation wing of the NGRBA. Meanwhile, in Jharkhand, a dedicated cell has been constituted under the Department of Urban Development to implement the project.

The government has also elevated the status of NMCG to that of an authority with powers to enforce pollution laws and penalise defaulters. Further, the government has proposed the creation of a Ganga committee in each state, to function as authority.

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Project financing

The Namami Gange programme has a budget outlay of Rs 200 billion for five years (2015-19). It is being financed entirely by the central government. The centre will fund the complete life-cycle cost of the assets, which includes a 10-year operation and maintenance cost.

Further, the centre has set up a Clean Ganga Fund to encourage contributions from citizens, institutions and corporations. Several public and private entities have contributed to the fund. As of March 2016, the total contribution received is estimated at Rs 876.9 million. Of this, Rs 788.3 million (about 90 per cent) was received from corporations – Rs 710.3 million from public sector entities and Rs 78 million from private companies.

The programme is also receiving financial assistance from multilateral agencies for undertaking capacity building, data management and knowledge exchange related works. In this regard, an agreement was recently signed, in August 2016, between the MoWR, RD&GR and the German International Cooperation Agency. As per the agreement, the German government will provide about Rs 225 million for undertaking knowledge exchange and capacity enhancement works, which are expected to be completed by 2018.

Moreover, the government has also approved the proposal for adopting the hybrid annuity-based PPP model for awarding projects under the Namami Gange programme. Under this model, a part of the capital investment (up to 40 per cent) will be contributed by the government through construction-linked milestones. The balance will come in the form of an annuity over the contract duration of up to 20 years. The government is also planning to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to undertake activities related to all PPP projects under the programme. The SPV will undertake project planning, appoint concessionaires, monitor project implementation and develop markets for treated wastewater. The SPV will be guided by the NMCG in undertaking these project works.

Progress so far

As of June 2016, a total of 97 projects have been sanctioned under the Namami Gange programme. These projects are located across 53 towns and require an estimated investment of Rs 85.88 billion.

Of the 97 projects, 58 projects (or about 60 per cent) relate to setting up and augmenting STPs and pumping stations and laying sewer lines. While 51 projects involve both the setting up of additional capacity and the expansion of existing sewerage networks by laying sewer lines, the other seven projects pertain to only laying and rehabilitating sewer lines. The remaining 39 projects involve work pertaining to ghat and crematoria development, the Ganga Knowledge Centre, water quality monitoring, biodiversity conservation, etc.

Overall, these projects are estimated to create 808.23 mld of additional sewage treatment capacity and rehabilitate 1,089 mld of existing capacity. Moreover, about 3,627 km of sewerage networks will be laid under these projects.

State-wise, the maximum number of projects that have been sanctioned are for West Bengal (30), followed by Uttarakhand (23) and Uttar Pradesh (15).

As of August 2016, a total of 32 projects have been completed under the programme. These include seven completed STP construction projects – four in Uttar Pradesh and three in Uttarakhand. In terms of treatment capacity, 126.5 mld of additional capacity has been created so far. Further, the NGRBA has engaged five central public sector units (PSUs) to conduct assessment and feasibility studies and undertake various entry-level activities under the programme. These PSUs are WAPCOS Limited, Engineers India Limited, NBCC (India) Limited, Engineering Projects (India) Limited and National Projects Construction Corporation Limited. So far, the authority has received five detailed project reports (DPRs) for ghat and crematoria development in Bihar (35 ghats and four crematoria) and Uttarakhand (four ghats and six crematoria). Further, the authority has also received three DPRs for treating sewage collected from village drains along three stretches in Uttarakhand.

Under the Namami Gange programme, the central government has also launched 231 entry-level and medium-term projects. The entry-level projects involve the cleaning of the river surface and village drains, and the repair and modernisation of ghats and crematoria, among other things.

The river surface and ghat cleaning works have been initiated in six cities – Mathura Vrindavan, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and New Delhi. Trash skimmers are being used to undertake cleaning works. Meanwhile, the ministry has invited expressions of interest from technology providers for taking up demonstration projects for treating drains. Further, crematoria construction and modernisation works are being implemented in 20-25 ULBs. The target is to complete works on over 100 crematoria by November 2016. Besides, ghat development works are under way in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Jharkhand. In Patna, Bihar, a 6.6 km long promenade is being developed across 20 ghats. Of this, work on six ghats has been completed. Works have been assigned for the development of the Chandi ghat in Uttar Pradesh, the Chhath ghat in Delhi and the Sahibganj ghat in Jharkhand. Meanwhile, DPRs for ghat development works in the cities of Kedarnath, Allahabad, Kanpur, Bithoor, Kolkata and Rishikesh are under preparation.

With respect to the development of water quality monitoring facilities, tenders for 36 of the 113 facilities have been issued. Further, the Ganga Knowledge Centre which has been set up by the NGRBA will create and manage knowledge sources, including the analysis and modelling of diverse data sets relevant to the Ganga basin. It also encourages research and innovation, facilitates stakeholder dialogues and builds public awareness.

Conclusion

To conclude, the Namami Gange programme is expected to play a major role in reducing the discharge of untreated sewage into the Ganga river and improving the water quality. Going forward, major benefits are expected to be generated from the programme. It is expected to augment sewerage infrastructure through the construction of new STPs, pumping stations and additional sewage pipeline networks. Apart from helping to keep the river clean, the programme will also provide tertiary treated wastewater for non-potable use for agricultural and industrial processes.

Given the current progress, the programme is expected to meet all its targets by 2019-20. Nevertheless, cost-effective and timely implementation will be a challenge, given the massive amount of infrastructure to be created under the programme.

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