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‘Ganga Is Sunken’

The 2,525 km-long river flows through eleven states and 167 Lok Sabha constituencies and provides water to more than 500 million people

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9661460452840Clean-Ganga-shutterstock_157148174.jpg

Clean Ganga shutterstock_157148174

When Nitin Gadkari was given additional charge of the Union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, his immediate concern was the timely implementation of 160 projects worth Rs 12,500 crore, pre-approved by his predecessor, Uma Bharti, under the ambitious Namami Gange Mission. The Namami Gange Mission was launched in 2014 with an outlay of Rs 20,000 crore.

Notwithstanding the several millions pumped into cleaning the Ganga, considered the lifeline of North India over the last 30 years, there has been no change on the ground. The 2,525 km-long river flows through eleven states and 167 Lok Sabha constituencies and provides water to more than 500 million people.

Domestic sewage and industrial waste dumped into the river have made the water unfit for bathing. Each day, approximately 500 million litres of waste water from industrial sources gets dumped into the Ganga. Another 850 million gallons of sewage gets dumped into the Yamuna. Indeed, the     “Ganga was sunken” as in T. S.Eliot’s Wasteland, “And the limp leaves/Waited for rain,/While the black clouds /Gathered far distant, over Himavant”.

The Ganga and Yamuna are not the only rivers that are sinking. Many Indian rivers and lakes have either disappeared or have turned toxic because of rampant pollution, dumping of sewage waste and over exploitation. “Continuous sand mining, over exploitation of waters is also responsible for our dying rivers,” says water conservationist Rajendra Singh. Many experts have pointed out that the only way to solve India’s problem of perennial drought and flood is the river linking project as it will ensure equitable distribution of river water in the country.

The Centre has recently approved the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project and is set to interlink 31 rivers across the country within the next ten years. The project will involve an investment of Rs 9,000 crore and is expected to be completed by 2019. The project may provide water for irrigation, drinking and electricity generation across Jhansi, Banda and the Mahoba districts of Uttar Pradesh and Chhatarpur, Panna and Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh.

“The aim is to save water and control floods. We will ensure that the environment, aqua life of rivers and the eco-balance is not disturbed in the process,” Uma Bharti had said. Environmentalists and water conservationists were not swayed by these tall claims. Apart from the high cost (Rs 11 trillion), the Ken–Betwa river interlinking project will also displace nearly 1.5 million people by submerging 2,766,000 hectares of land and pose some environmental risks.

“Each river has its unique flora and fauna, based on the ecological parameters. These will get destroyed when the rivers are linked and the waters get mixed,” says Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh. “Instead,” says he, “spend the amounts on cleaning and reviving the rivers and on alternatives such as community-based decentralised water management.”


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Magazine 14 October 2017