Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 27
As the Ganga deteriorates to its “worst-ever situation”, with ally JD-U warning about the future of the National Waterway-1 project and environmentalist Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand going on a fast after receiving no reply to a letter to the PM, environmentalists say the holy river’s downward journey continues unabated.
“The Ganga’s downward journey of the past three decades is continuing. It has not reversed or changed in the past four years,” says Himanshu Thakkar of Sandrp (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People) and also a member of a central committee formed on the issue of siltation in the Ganga in 2017.
Reminding the Prime Minister of the promise he made to the Ganga and his constituency Varanasi in 2014, Thakkar said the situation had further worsened in the past four years.
Meanwhile, Sanand, in his recent letter, reminded the PM that like him he was also a “Gangaputra” and was determined to carry his fast till the end.
Modi’s electoral promise from the ghats of Varanasi to clean the Ganga was huge and the one that had been repeatedly tried in the past, without much success. “This time, there was hope. But four years down the line, apart from statements and plans there seems to be no action on the most important issue—the massive siltation in the river,” says Thakkar.
Recently, BJP ally Nitish Kumar also cautioned that the Centre’s NW-1 project from Allahabad to Farakka would not succeed unless the issue of siltation was resolved.
Urging Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan to take up the issue with Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Kumar cited the example of two cargo ships of the Inland Waterways Authority of India stuck in the Ganga near Buxar due to shallow waters this year. A tug vessel sent to pull out the first cargo ship also got stuck 10 km upstream of Buxar, he told a climate change event in Patna.
So far, there are no signs of the Centre taking note of Sanand’s fast. The 85-year-old activist had made headlines when he sat on a fast-unto-death, demanding uninterrupted flow between Gangotri to Uttarkashi, resulting in suspension of the Loharinag-Pala Hydropower Project in 2009.
Kumar and Sanand are both asking the Centre to ensure ‘aviral’ flow in the Ganga. And the same is being reiterated by Thakkar. “However, when the Central Water Commission does not even have critical data on a dam like Farakka barrage to assess the situation, how is it possible to find solution to the problem,” he says.
Gadkari recently said, “We hope to clean 70 to 80 per cent of the Ganga by March 2019. It is a general perception that nothing significant is being done under the Namami Gange Programme but this is not correct. As many as 251 Gross Polluting Industries (GPI) have been closed and closure directions have been issued to non-complying GPIs.”
But Thakkar says spending 70 to 80 per cent of the Rs 20,000 crore allocated for the programme is not exactly solving the problem. “There has to be a concrete plan for desiltation and it must be ensured that ‘aviral’ flow is maintained and the Ganga is rejuvinated,” he says.
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