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Ganga Rejuvenation Enhancing Urban Renewal Conditions

Asserted an excited Director General of National Mission of Clean Ganga, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra in a tete-a-tete with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld.

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A total of 315 projects have been sanctioned under Namami Gange programme at a cost of Rs. 28,862 crores. 120 projects have been completed and the remaining are under various stages of execution. Pace of execution and consequently the expenditure has increased manifold. A total of 152 sewerage infrastructure projects have been sanctioned to create 4856 MLD treatment capacity in the Ganga basin. In 2014, we only had 28 projects on hand with only 462.85 MLD.  In addition, the mission has also done condition assessment of old infrastructure and taken up steps to rehabilitate and upgrade them wherever feasible. Asserted an excited Director General of National Mission of Clean Ganga, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra in a tete-a-tete with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld.

Excerpts below:


How has Namami Gange mission or National Mission for clean Ganga been elevating the sustainability of our environment or maintaining the ecological balance so far?
Namami Gange mission is an integrated mission for pollution abatement as well as improvement in ecology and flow of Ganga and its tributaries. So, it is both Nirmal and Aviral Dhara we want to achieve.  Afforestation, biodiversity, conservation wetland rejuvenation, flood plain protection, recharge of ground water and water conversation are all part of our mission for Aviral Dhara. Notification for environmental flow, issued by NMCG for the first time recognises that river has right over its own water.  We mostly look at how to abstract water from rivers for agriculture, industries, drinking water or recreation. But we should not forget that river has its ecological function to perform and without flow these can’t be a river. We have a plan for ecological improvement through improvement and conservation of the wetland and we have given top priority to flood plain wetlands. We are looking at spring rejuvenation at the Uttarakhand and the Himalayan area. With the help of Wild Life Institute of India we have taken up biodiversity in a very scientific way. In association with, Forest Resource of India (FRI) we are working on a scientific plan for Afforestation in Ganga States. We are promoting organic farming and medicinal plantation along Ganga.

Would you share with us about the funds allocated for NMCG and how has they been utilised for the specific purpose?
Assured budget  and provision of Rs 20,000 Cr for five years helped us in holistic planning and scaling up interventions to match the challenge. Initial years were spent on planning but last 3 years have seen growing momentum reflected in increased expenditure with last two years seeing annual expenditure of above Rs 2600 cr.  Previous interventions right from 1985 to 2014 the expenditure from government of India on Ganga cleaning was 4000 crore whereas in last 5 years it has crossed 9000 cr. We have also introduced Hybrid Annuity mode in sewerage projects where we are paying only 40% during construction. We look for 15 years outflow. So, value of work done is actually more than expenditure.
 
The present-day scenario is raising an alarm for water scarcity globally. How is Your department strategizing steps to eliminate water scarcity and enhancing conservation?

India has 17-18% of global population but only 4% of global water resources so we have to be really very cautious about utilising water. Our water use efficiency is not even 40% so there is huge potential to improve. We keep on using ground water not allowing it to be recharged. There are several initiatives taken up for improving ground water availability through rain water harvesting. In Namami Gange, we are giving attention to smaller rivers and streams as it is easier to rejuvenate with the help of local administration. Bringing a paradigm shift for planning for river cities, NMCG is working for mainstream rivers into the master plans by preparing Urban River Management Plan (URMPs).



How would the Namami Ganga campaign enhance Indian ecosystem as well as economy?
The primary focus of the mission is improving ecology and reducing pollution. We have made considerable progress in these aspects. We are now taking policy initiatives for linking economic development with ecological improvement.  Agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and allied sectors along with promotion of tourism, cultural heritage remains focus areas. Clean energy & water ways along with biodiversity, conservation, wetland development remains priority. One cannot ignore traditional livelihood of people living along the Ganga and how we can really improve that. There is a committee constituted at a level of vice chairman of NITI Ayog with Honourable Jal Shakti Minister as co-chairman with concerned departments to work out a model. Some of our projects like cultural mapping, medicinal plantation and ecological agriculture would help us gain experience for scaling up.

What are your key achievements in the past 9 years?

A total of 315 projects have been sanctioned under Namami Gange programme at a cost of Rs. 28,862 crores. 120 projects have been completed and the remaining are under various stages of execution. Pace of execution and consequently the expenditure has increased manifold. A total of 152 sewerage infrastructure projects have been sanctioned to create 4856 MLD treatment capacity in the Ganga basin. In 2014, we only had 28 projects on hand with only 462.85 MLD.  In addition, the mission has also done condition assessment of old infrastructure and taken up steps to rehabilitate and upgrade them wherever feasible. Projects have been taken up as per a comprehensive plan for all the 97 cities/towns along Ganga. Subsequently, projects for tributaries have also been started. The Figure I below indicate the magnitude of scaling up of efforts under this mission with a sense of urgency and with desired momentum to be able to bridge the past gap between sewage generation and treatment capacity and also take care of future needs upto 2035 as well.  Several landmark projects have been completed intercepting major drains falling into Ganga and diverting them to STPs.  80 major drains have been tapped, 120 years old Sisamau nala discharging 140 MLD in Ganga at Kanpur and Kasawan Nala in Haridwar are some examples. All projects in Haridwar and Rishikesh –the main cities in Uttarakhand on Ganga, have been commissioned. Most of other STPs in Ganga towns in Uttarakhand along Ganga are also complete. Almost entire Prayagraj now has sewerage network and STPs. Varanasi saw completion of 140 MLD STP at Dinapur and 120 MLD at Goitha. Another 50 MLD STP at Ramna would be ready this year to ensure that no untreated sewage flows from Varanasi. In Bihar, Namami Gange projects are increasing treatment capacity by 10 times from about 60 MLD to 650 MLD. In Jharkhand, Sahibganj STP is already functioning and the only other STP on Ganga at Rajmahal will be completed in few months. Several projects in West Bengal too are making progress.

Please share with us about the focus of the department going forward.
Having commissioned several landmark projects and learning during this process. We would like to carry them forward more effectively and try to extend fully to the basin. On the main stream of Ganga, almost all projects have been sanctioned and several projects have been completed. Similarly, on major tributaries we have completed or progressing on many projects. We are now giving attention to rejuvenation of smaller rivers, which can be done with convergence of local program. Their rejuvenation would help rejuvenate Ganga ultimately. Not much has been done on the e-flow in the country except Ganga. We are now studying Yamuna, Ramganga etc. we are all aware of pollution in Yamuna. The solution lies in improving flow in Yamuna apart from pollution abatement projects and we are in the advance stage of conducting e-flow analysis of Yamuna. We will be carrying forward e-flow determination for major tributaries of the river. A lot of success in Namami Gange has been achieved by engaging community, we took innovative step like District Ganga Committees. As a next step we will try to further strengthen this and grassroot institution and implement community driver program.

How has COVID 19 been responsible to create an alarm for natural water body rejuvenation and restoration?    
COVID 19 has changed the way we work throughout globe. We all saw during this COVID period that nature has capacity to rejuvenate itself. During lockdown period people were not going to river minimizing the solid waste, industrial units were closed so industrial effluents did not come but what did not change during the lockdown was the domestic sewage flow, which is the major source of pollution. We monitored, operated our STPs very effectively during this period and could commission few prospects too. Industrial effluents could not flow due to their closure. So lesson is better enforcement and improving process to reuse and recycle. As far as solid waste management is concerned, the lesson is, we all must change our behaviour. We stopped throwing solid waste on the bank of the river so the river looked clean, that’s a good lesson to carry forward. Development of regulatory regime and industries also to self-regulate because you cannot achieve everything by policing you have to have a kind of transformative change within yourself. I think no matter of campaigning would have made people so sensitive, there is lot of interest to know about biodiversity.


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