The government launched the Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission – the Namami Gange programme – in May 2015 for the conservation of the Ganga river. The programme aims to abate pollution, and rejuvenate and protect the river. It is being executed in 11 states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. For a more coordinated effort, schemes which were introduced prior to Namami Gange but have been ongoing during 2014-17 are also being integrated with the programme, thus ensuring a holistic approach to clean the river.
In the past couple of years, various activities have been taken up under the programme, forming its major pillars.
- Sewerage infrastructure works through the development of sewerage treatment capacities, interception and diversion of drains and other related works
- Pollution abatement by monitoring industrial effluents
- Ghat development involving renovation and modernisation of ghats
- Rural sanitation with the construction of individual household latrines and solid liquid waste management
- River surface cleaning
- Conservation of flora and fauna and maintenance of ecological flow
- Institutional development involving the development of a Ganga knowledge centre and river monitoring centres.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) receives funds from the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD&GR) for implementing the programme. These funds are then transferred to state programme management groups on a quarterly basis, for implementing the agreed annual action plans.
For projects sanctioned prior to May 2015, the government is providing 70 per cent of the sanctioned cost as financial assistance, while for projects introduced after May 2015, 100 per cent financial assistance is being provided. During the period 2014-17 (up till June 2017), funds amounting to Rs 17.05 billion had been released for executing various projects.
The government has also created a Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) with the objective of raising contributions from the public, residents, non-resident Indians (NRIs), persons of Indian origin and others for financing various activities related to Ganga rejuvenation. Up till March 31, 2017, a corpus of Rs 1.98 billion was available in the CGF.
The Namami Gange programme has been sanctioned with a total outlay of Rs 200 billion. As of November 2017, 187 projects have been approved at an estimated cost of Rs 167.13 billion by the NMCG executive committee. Of these, 47 projects have been completed in various states, the maximum number of completed projects being in West Bengal (26). In terms of expenditure, a total of Rs 29.52 billion has been spent till November 2017.
With respect to sewerage infrastructure, 93 projects have been sanctioned so far. The scope of work involves the development of sewage treatment plants (STPs) with a total capacity of 2,205.08 million litres per day (mld), rehabilitation of 564.3 mld of existing STPs and laying/rehabilitation of 4,762.4 km of sewerage networks. As of December 2017, work on constructing two STPs – a 50 mld STP in Varanasi and an 82 mld STP in Haridwar – has started. These STPs are being developed on a public-private partnership basis under the hybrid annuity model (HAM). Other STPs in Uttar Pradesh (Naini, Jhusi, Phaphamau, Unnao, Shuklaganj and Farrukhabad), Bihar (Digha, Kankarbagh and Bhagalpur) and Kolkata (Howrah, Bally and Tolly’s Nallah) have also been sanctioned under HAM.
For industrial pollution abatement, a survey of 1,109 grossly polluting industries was conducted. Of these, 333 have been issued closure notices for failing to comply with industry emission norms. The government has proposed the installation of 113 real-time water quality monitoring stations (RTWQMSs) for monitoring the water quality of the Ganga river and its major tributaries (Yamuna, Ramganga, Kali). So far, 36 RTWQMSs are operational.
The renovation of 111 ghats and 46 crematoria is ongoing under the riverfront development projects. It is expected to be completed by 2018. For river surface cleaning, 11 trash skimmers have been deployed at Haridwar, Garh Mukhteshwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna, Sahibganj, Nabadwip, Kolkata, Delhi and Mathura-Vrindavan.
On the rural sanitation front, all 4,464 villages on the banks of the river have been made open defecation-free (ODF) and 0.12 million individual household toilets have been constructed. Solid liquid waste management activities have been completed in two of the 132 gram panchayats of Uttarakhand, while they are in progress in 11 other gram panchayats of the state. Works are yet to be taken up in other identified districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Meanwhile, to effectively monitor the progress of projects and activities, state Ganga committees and 34 district Ganga committees have been constituted.
Recently, in early January 2018, projects worth Rs 2.78 billion have been approved by the NMCG. These include sewage management works in Kamarhati, Baranagar, Berhampore and Nabadwip municipalities in West Bengal; laying of sewerage lines in uncovered areas in Uttarakhand and repairing and retrofitting various ghats in Varanasi.
Despite the holistic approach taken under Namami Gange to revamp the river, deficiencies in financial management, planning and implementation are hampering the realisation of the objective. Funds amounting to Rs 21.34 (for the period 2014-17) are lying unutilised, due to non-finalisation of action plans. There are significant implementation delays as well. As per the target dates, all works pertaining to STPs had to be awarded by September 2016. However, as of August 2017, detailed project reports (DPRs) for STPs with a capacity of 1,397 mld are yet to be finalised. To overcome the shortcomings, the NMCG has to ensure the optimum utilisation of funds available, more realistic planning, data integrity, and sound monitoring for achieving targets. Moreover, coordinated efforts of all parties involved can help in the timely completion of projects without any significant cost escalations.