Namami Gange Programme: Is there any hope for this project?
The Namami Gange Programme was launched by the newly formed BJP government in 2014, in furtherance of PM Modi's vow to save Ganga ahead of his election. A whopping Rs. 20,000 crore was allocated to the programme to conserve and abate pollution in the Ganges. However, figures from the water resources ministry reveal, shockingly little has been implemented under the scheme over three years.
What is the Namami Gange programme?
The first attempt at addressing Ganga clean-up was done under PM Rajiv Gandhi, through the Ganga Action Plan in 1986. Namami Gange was launched as an Integrated Conservation Mission in 2014, with an initial budget allocation of Rs. 20,000 crore. Aiming to reduce pollution and to rejuvenate the river, the programme includes pillars including setting up sewage treatment infrastructure, river-front development and biodiversity conservation.
Why is this significant?
Ganga is the largest river in India. Considered holy by the Hindus, the river flows through 11 states supporting 40% of its population. It further hosts over 150 species of fish and 300 species of birds. Despite its high significance, human waste, at times cadavers, along with 7500 million litres of sewage subject Ganga to dangerous pollution, resulting in severe health and environmental impact.
What do the water resources ministry figures reveal?
The figures reveal that merely 18% of the total funds budgeted (Rs. 3,633 crore) has been allocated to the project over the last three years out of which only 9% was spent. While setting up sewage treatment infrastructure was a major pillar of the programme, the current sewage treatment capacity can only treat, 1,057 litres amounting merely up to 14.09% of the total quantity.
Filth continues to float
The implementation of the Programme is classified into entry level, medium level and long term activities. Floating waste including plastic and animal carcasses are classified for immediate impact. However, only 11 out of 118 priority cities have acquired machines and zero crematoria constructed.
What needs to be done now?
The BJP government in its initial years (2014-15) has placed environment at the centre of many initiatives including Swacch Bharat and Namami Gange. Starting momentum in these policies seem to have fizzled out, with the government seemingly neglecting the environment. Implementation is far behind the initial 5 year schedule. While environmental concerns have few electoral consequences in India, the government needs to get cracking.