Nobody’s river : The Tribune India

Nobody’s river

The National Green Tribunal, asked by the Supreme Court, has taken up on a “day-to-day” basis hearing on the execution of Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s ambitious ‘Namami Gange project’.



The National Green Tribunal, asked by the Supreme Court, has taken up on a “day-to-day” basis hearing on the execution of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious ‘Namami Gange project’. Its opening observation was that “not a single drop of the Ganga has been cleaned so far.” After two years of the latest “clean Ganga” project, all that has been accomplished is a few meetings of the authorities concerned and endless bickering between the state and Central agencies involved. Despite the fact that the project has been transferred from the Environment to the Water Resources Ministry, the Supreme Court has had to step in to do what is essentially the executive’s job.

In view of the practical takeover of the mission by the NGT, it may well be declared already that the NDA government has failed in cleaning the Ganga, one of the star points in Narendra Modi’s election campaign in 2014. This is in keeping with a similarly spectacular failure over the previous 30 years, during which thousands of crores of rupees were sent down the river, starting with the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985, and then renewed under the UPA. The Ganga has not remained soiled for want of funds, but the will to take action against the defaulters, including industries that have been identified as violators of pollution norms. Another factor is the inter-departmental walls; these perhaps can only be brought down through judicial intervention.

Allotting funds is only the first part of a mission. Imposing any environmental protection law is bound to hurt someone’s commercial interest. That requires a will that the political executive can find only if there is public (read electoral) pressure, which is something that has been found lacking on all environmental issues. After two years in government, the BJP is not making the Ganga a poll issue in Uttar Pradesh; the Samajwadi Party is only too happy. People place immediate personal interest before environmental, which is the reason why keeping our planet clean and green is a task that has been left only to NGOs, activists and courts.

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