SOME PRIME MINISTER
NARENDRA MODI’S GANGA
CLEANING PLANS FOR 2014.
• NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had vowed to come out
with a plan to bring back the lost glory of Ganga during his campaign in
Varanasi, and now his government is planning a policy initiative to
check pollution in the mighty river.
• “The government will work out a policy initiative for the rejuvenation of
Ganga as well as the cleaning up of other important rivers in the
country. Efforts will be made to make it clean and pious as it was in the
past,” Union Minister of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation
Uma Bharti said after taking charge of the ministry. Promising an early
review the status of various river projects, including fund allocation,
Bharti said all the rivers should be made free from the scourge of
pollution and people should get clean water. Bharti expressed
happiness that she has been given the responsibility of cleaning up the
Ganga and said that she will do her best to ensure that the task
• The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is already in
the process of drafting a new law to ensure clean Ganga. The
key points of the new ‘Ganga Act will include making those
polluting the river to pay a fine, ensuring continuous river flow,
financial model to stop polluted water entering the river,
regulating hydroelectric projects and floodplain management.
• A committee under the MoEF having members from the
Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development,
Central Water Commission and a consortium of IITs has been
set up to draft the law. The committee has held two-rounds of
talks to discuss a broad framework of the new legislation,
which has been a long pending demand.
• New Delhi: The first public gestures that Prime Minister Narendra
Modi made on his election were to thank two mothers — his own and
Mother Ganga, the most famous waterway in India.
• The new leader visited his mom, then went on to Varanasi along the
Ganges, India’s most threatened river, where under a canopy
brightened with marigold flowers and cheered by his constituents as
millions watched on television, Modi promised the sacred river would
be clean in five years.
• Mother Ganga, Modi solemnly declared on the banks of the river
where Hindu pilgrims believe a dip washes away sins, needs
someone to take her out of this dirt and she’s chosen me to do the
• The Ganges is no ordinary river. It originates pristine from a
Himalayan glacier 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) high, worshiped
as a goddess, reverently called mother. Yet raw sewage from
29 cities blights its 2,525-kilometer (1,570-mile) route as
bloated bodies of dead animals, funeral pyre ashes, reduced
flow from dams and factory waste fouls its waters.
• In his speech, Modi vowed to clean India’s most revered river
by the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, a
daunting task that echoes a promise uttered almost three
decades earlier by the late Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi.
• Yet it’s not insignificant that Modi made his first policy
announcement about water. Nor on the day he assumed
power over Asia’s third-biggest economy, he named a minister
just to clean the river. Uma Bharti’s title: minister for water
resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.
• Unlike his efforts to cleanse the smaller Sabarmati River in
western Gujarat state, where he was chief minister, the
Ganges is far more challenging to Modi’s government:
improve water for 400 million Indians across five of the
nation’s most populous states, address groundwater risks,
aquifers depleted by farmers and boreholes, and rising
• If we don’t clean this river now, we’re risking a huge public
health crisis, said Somnath Bandyopadhyay, former
consultant to the Indian environment ministry’s National
Ganga River Basin Authority.
• From pathogens to endocrine disruptors, the water is
deteriorating faster than we can understand,
Bandyopadhyay said. At places like Varanasi, we are taking
a holy dip in the sewage of various upstream cities.
• In a seven- kilometre stretch at Varanasi alone, untreated
sewage dumps from 33 outlets into the Ganges,
according to Pandit Vishwambharnath Mishra, head
priest and chairman of the city’s Sankat Mochan
• Water samples tested in a lab by the Clean Ganga
Campaign showed fecal coliform of as much as 1.5
million counts per 100 millilitres at the confluence of the
Ganges and Varuna River, named after the god of water.
• The tolerable limit for bathing is less than 500 of the
bacteria that can cause such diseases as typhoid,
dysentery and cholera, said Mishra, a Banaras Hindu
University (BHU) professor and among those Modi met
before he announced his Ganga plan.
• Pesticides in India’s groundwater are causing cancers,
dirty water is inhibiting growth in children and lack of the
resource for irrigation has caused farmers to take their
• Arsenic poisoning has risen as too much groundwater is
withdrawn by pumps and wells in the plains of the
Ganges, polluting crops and generating lesions,
gangrene and cancer- related illness, according to the
Central Groundwater Board.
• In India, 53% of the people have no access to a basic
toilet and defecation along water bodies is common. At
least 37.7 million a year are affected by water-borne
diseases that costs up to $600 million to treat, according
to Water Aid.
• Varanasi, like most Indian cities, lacks much Western-style
infrastructure to treat sewage. Indian cities treat 29% of the 38
billion litres (10 billion gallons) municipal wastewater
generated a day, according to the Central Pollution Control
Board. By 2050, this is expected to rise to 100 billion litres as
the population expands.
• Of the total 8.3 billion litres of wastewater generated every day
from 222 towns in the Ganges basin, 7 billion litres are directly
discharged into the river and its tributaries.
• According to a 2013 report in the International Journal of
Scientific Research and Publications, apart from sewage, the
Ganges is riddled with 260 million litres a day of industrial
wastewater, runoff from 6 million tons of fertilizers and
thousands of animal carcasses and human corpses.
• Sewage treatment capacities set up under the Ganga Action
Plan started in 1986 can treat only one-third of what’s dumped
into the river, according to B.D. Tripathi. He’s a member of the
government’s National Ganga River Basin Authority that the
World Bank is loaning $1 billion for water works.
• We need to change the way we look at our rivers, said
Bandyopadhyay. Look at any city on the Ganga’s banks —
Patna, Kolkata or Varanasi. The city looks back at the river as
something flowing in our backyard only to carry our muck not
something that needs to flow for our spiritual well-being.
• India has spent Rs11,100 crore ($1.9 billion) to clean the
Ganga since the first Ganga Action Plan began, yet has little to
show for it, Tripathi said.
• Another big part of the problem is that the Ganga doesn’t
flow anymore, he said, as upstream dams have impeded
flows, made water stagnant.
• The Ganges, when it descends from the Himalayas, is
known as Bhagirathi. It becomes the Ganga at
Devprayag at the confluence of Bhagirathi and
Alaknanda in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.
• Dams on the rivers and other tributaries of the Ganges for producing
electricity are being studied on orders of the Supreme Court after floods and
landslides in Uttarakhand last year killed at least 500 people. More than
4,000 remain missing, presumed dead.
• The river enters the plains at Haridwar where dams divert water to irrigate
farms in the state of Uttar Pradesh through a series of canal systems, further
diverting freshwater, even endangering river dolphins.
• There’s a need to maintain a minimum flow of water in the Ganga so aquatic
life can survive, Mishra said.
• With only 4% of the world’s freshwater available, the Water Resources
Institute ranks India as the 41st most water-stressed nation. It also lists the
Ganges Brahmaputra basin as facing extremely high risk from changes in
available surface water.
• According to the government, availability of renewable
freshwater that fell to 1,845 cubic meters in 2007 from 6,042
cubic meters per person in 1947 may decline to water-scarce
levels below 1,000 cubic meters by the end of this century.
• Back in Varanasi, 55-year-old boatman Gorakh Sahani looked
skeptical as he watched a man wash dirt off concrete steps in
preparation for Modi’s arrival. He stopped rowing his boat near
where the dead were being cremated and pointed to the water.
• They wash the garbage into the river and then pray to the
river, Sahani said. Many governments have promised to clean
Mother Ganga but nothing has happened. The river is truly our
mother, and till the Ganga exists, we will exist. The day mother
Ganga dies, so will we.