Cleaning the River Ganga is one of the key agendas of the Modi government. During the Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti was asked what the Centre was doing towards making the holy river clean.
RS member for INLD from Haryana Ram Kumar Kashyap asked what was the government doing to stop pollution of the river from ritualistic offerings like flowers and leaves.
“What is the government doing about the rising pollution in the Ganges? Does the government have a scheme to save the water from getting polluted by flowers and other offerings thrown into the river?” Kashyap asked.
At this Bharti told Kashyap that the primary reason for Ganga pollution was not these ritualistic offerings but industrial waste and sewage.
She told Kashyap that the Centre is working on a project titled ‘livelihood’ under which a way to reuse the offerings in the river for some other productive purpose by those living along the banks is being worked on.
When asked how the government plans to make the water in the river drinkable and its flow continuous, Bharati replied that the Centre has allotted Rs.20K crores under the ‘Namami Gange’ fund for this purpose.
The government, Bharti said, will show (results of) the phase 1 of the cleanliness drive in October 2016 and phase 2 in October 2018.
“The government will be employing hi-tech methods to save water and divert tributaries to the main river to help in the continuous flow,” she said. Pointing at Bharti’s earlier comment that it was the industrial waste that was a major pollutant, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh asked if the Central Pollution Control Board has taken any action on such industries. “We called a meeting of 764 industries in September 2014 warning them of immediately implementing the Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) technology. Our government won’t allow drawing of clean water and releasing waste water,” she told the House.
She said that action has been taken against some industries and expressed surprise that not a single industry was punished for polluting the Ganges in all these years.
Countering the Opposition, BJP’s firebrand RS MP Subramanian Swamy pointed out that a huge hindrance for the Centre’s project is the dams built during Congress rule which diverted the river at many places.
“They are drying up the river beyond Haridwar. Something should be done to stop this reckless hydroelectric projects that stop the river or divert it,” he said. Bharti said that the Centre will consult states for action against industries. She reminded the House of the treaty signed between Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya and the British in 1912 under which it was agreed that any construction – barrage or dam – will not block the flow of the river. “This has been violated during the previous reign in one or two cases. My ministry, Environment Ministry and Power Ministry together committed before the court that the Modi government will follow the treaty to the word and ensure the uninterrupted flow of the river,” she said.