There has been no lack of symbolism, funds, infrastructure, technology, promises, big statements and periodic announcements for Ganga by the Modi government. In fact, grand statements started even before the 2014 Parliamentary elections. But how do we gauge if there was an intention to rejuvenate the Ganga? May be if we could see a credible road map, a clear sense of purpose. If we could see signs of attempt to understand what the “development” plans are doing to the river. If we had a clear definition of what constitutes Ganga and what are the time bound goals of Nirmal and Aviral Ganga. Does the Namami Gange, the central program of Modi government on Ganga since May 2014 clear any of the tests? Even towards achieving Nirmal (clean) Ganga, if not Aviral (incessantly flowing) Ganga? Unfortunately, there is none.
As INDIA RIVERS WEEK 2018 gets underway in Delhi during Nov 24-26, 2018 with theme “Can India Rejuvenate Ganga“, let us try and see the state of Ganga and Namami Gange in the context of what is happening on this front in recent years. Continue reading “Namami Gange: Where is the intention?”→
In this second part of the Ganga article, let us listen to some official agencies about the state of Ganga River following the recent efforts.
Parliamentary Committee: Why is Ganga among the five most polluted rivers of the world? Said Parliamentary estimates committee (2016-17) for Ministry of Water Resources, Ganga Rejuvenation and River Development (MoWR for short) in a report on “Ganga Rejuvenation” submitted to the Lok Sabha (lower house of India’s Parliament) on 11th May, 2016[i]: “However, indiscriminate anthropogenic interventions like construction of HPPs[ii] in the seismically active and fragile Himalayas, diversion of 80 to 90 percent of water, discharge of extremely hazardous effluents by 144 drains and dumping of solid waste has converted the Ganga into one of the ten most polluted rivers of the world. Alarmed by the drying-polluted Ganga and taking note of the solemn resolve of the Prime Minister to rejuvenate the Ganga, the Committee decided to select the subject for in depth examination and report with a view to accelerate the work of Ganga rejuvenation.” The report also noted, “The Public Accounts Committee (2014-15) in their 8th Report on Water Pollution had expressed distress that the Ganga has become one of the five most polluted rivers in the world, despite launching of the ‘Ganga Action Plan’ and the ‘Mission Clean Ganga’ (2009) by the NGRBA[iii].” Continue reading “Is there hope from National Mission for Clean Ganga? Listen to official agencies”→
Ganga river basin’s importance is well acknowledged. The World Bank, that is funding a currently ongoing USD 1 Billion project for Ganga Clean up says in its Project Appraisal Document[i]: It’s the most populous basin in the World. 50% of India’s poor are in the five states along the main stem of Ganga: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and W Bengal. The basin of the 2525 km long river spans four countries (China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh) and 11 Indian states. More than 60 million people came to the Ganga river in the city of Allahabad for pilgrimage in January 2007 during Kumbh Mela, making it the largest gathering in the world. It will again happen in January 2019. Continue reading “What ails Ganga: Why Namami Gange is spectacular failure”→
Above: (A) An image showing the Gangetic dolphin in its wild habitat (photo credit: Kadambari Deshpande), (B) a dead Gangetic dolphin calf (notice the pinhole like eyes), and (C) the calf is 1 m long, and adults measure to 2.6 m (photo credits for B & C: Sushant Dey).
Guest blog by Nachiket Kelkar
In 2015, The Times of India reported on the Ganges River Dolphin census exercise conducted in Uttar Pradesh, with the picture of a water buffalo to pass off as a dolphin. If you do not believe this, check out the image below[i]. Generally, most news reports on the river dolphin, some even by reputed news outlets (e.g. http://alert-conservation.org/issues-research-highlights/2016/5/30/rivers-of-destruction-the-implications-of-indias-national-waterways-bill-for-biodiversity), show the wrong species of dolphins, mostly marine species jumping acrobatically in aquariums. A forest department officer told us during their preparations for the Wildlife Week that, “if we put a beautiful dolphin’s picture, people will get more attracted to conserving the Gangetic dolphin, which is quite ugly, and the poor thing is also blind – toh achcha nahin lagta hai (it does not look good).” It does not stop here. A senior ecologist expressed concern recently in a public lecture, about the river dolphin becoming blind due to pollution. Against this background it is clear how little we know the Ganges Dolphin (our National Aquatic Animal, mind it) even today. Continue reading “Turning Blind Eyes: Do we care for river dolphins or their habitat?”→
On the 3rd of August 2016, Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti ji made some interesting remarks in her answer to a question about impact of Ganga Waterways Project on Biodiversity (Please see SANDRP’s detailed report on the same issue here). Her brief speech can be seen here: https://youtu.be/ohEOMfay71I
Indeed, Rivers, including the Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) needs democracy, in which dialogue is the starting point. The government, with all its powers, mandate and resources, needs to initiate this. Particularly when the government has taken such an ideological, fundamentalist position on ILR. So much so that the Union Minister says that anyone opposing the project is committing a national crime. And even goes to the extent of threatening even statutory regulators if the controversial Ken Betwa River Link proposal is not cleared in next meeting! That very minister is scheduled to conclude the “dialogue” of Aug 6, 2016 (to be held during 4-7 pm at Constitutional Club Rafi Marg, Delhi), is ironical to say the least. [As I was writing this, I got a call from Ms Uma Bharti ji’s home saying that she won’t be able to come for the meeting today as she is down with high fever. I hope she recovers soon and fully.] Continue reading “Rivers and ILR need democracy: There is none today; BUT THIS AUG 6 MEETING IS NO DIALOGUE”→
Above: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, PHOTO by: AJT Johnsingh
It’s a curious case of Dam fundamentalism: now manifest as ILR fundamentalism. On June 7, 2016, (as widely reported by media[i]) Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti “threatened to go on hunger strike if the Ken-Betwa river linking project is further delayed and termed the attempt to delay the project by environmentalists as a “national crime”” as reported by Business Standard. The threat was directed against all those raising questions about Ken Betwa River Link proposal of her ministry. Continue reading “ILR fundamentalism: Union Minister threatens regulators, media and civil society”→
A three member committee set up by the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR for short) has submitted a report in March 2015, which makes welcome recommendation on “Assessment of Environment Flows”. These recommendations on Environmental Flows (E-Flows) need to be implemented immediately for better health of our rivers. The committee members include Dr Vinod Tare of Indian Institute of Technology Consortium (IITC), senior officials of Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF for short, it was represented by Dr Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary in MoEF) and MoWR (represented by Dr Amarjeet Singh, Additional Secretary, MoWR). Sushri Uma Bharti, Union Water Resources Minister and even the recent meeting of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) on March 26, 2015, headed by the Prime Minister referred to this committee. Continue reading “MoWR report on “Assessment of E-Flows” is welcome, needs urgent implementation”→
A perennial river that does not flow is no river. This is because flow enables a river to fulfil its various ecological functions of which completion of the water and nutrient cycles; maintenance of aquatic and riparian flora and fauna and recharge of ground water through aquifer action is the most evident and critical. The recharged ground water also helps meet a number of human dependencies like irrigation and drinking water supplies.