India’s severely polluted Ganges River, or Ganga, will soon join the “status” of some of the world famous rivers like Ottawa, Hudson, Thames, and Brisbane—all of which are protected and conserved by national legislation.
The Prime Minister’s Office has directed the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests to draft a legislation to protect and safeguard the free flow of Ganga. The step is seen as a landmark decision by environmentalists as over the last 28 years Indian government has already spent more than rupees 5,000 crore ($806.192 million) on various plans to clean the holy river.
“We had been asking for a central legislation for conservation of the national river Ganga for a long time. Unlike India, the major rivers elsewhere had legislation enacted by their respective countries for their protection and conservation,” said Rajendra Singh, former member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), according to a report by Down To Earth, a science and environment magazine.
The first attempt to clean the sacred national river, which travels through five states with its 14 tributaries spread over 2,525 km, was made in 1986 with the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) launched by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Professor B.D. Tripathi, yet another expert from NGRBA, said in a report by the Livemint that the GAP project failed to deliver because there was no co-ordination between the central government and states. “The whole plan of the government while setting up the NGRBA was to de-pollute Ganga, but you cannot just look at the pollution levels now. The fight is now for the existence of Ganga,” he said.
Tripathi said that projects worth rupees 7,000 crore ($1128.668 million) are under consideration by various ministries and departments at different levels related to Ganga.
The NGRBA was formed in 2008, headed by the prime minister, to clean and de-pollute the river. In 2012, the authority’s members then proposed the draft of National River Ganga (Conservation and Management) Act to the prime minister. However, in September 2013, some key members later resigned from the NGRBA in order to protest against the government’s inefficiency to take adequate actions to save the river.
The Livemint report said that the draft law would ensure a minimum water flow at different locations in different seasons, along the entire length of the Ganga as well as its tributaries, while promoting sustainable farming and water-use efficiency. The proposed law would create new mechanisms for implementing preventive and corrective approaches, empowering authorities to regulate the discharge of wastewater, industrial effluents, and management of municipal solid waste.
Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the environment ministry to set up an inter-ministerial committee with the environment secretary as its chairman, while the current National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) will act as the secretariat for the committee.
“Perhaps, the prime minister has now decided to look at the draft. It is indeed a positive step towards protecting the Ganga,” Singh said in the Down To Earth report.