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Posted at: Jun 26, 2018, 7:14 PM; last updated: Jun 27, 2018, 11:31 AM (IST)

Environmentalist on fast after failing to get reply from fellow 'gangaputra' Modi

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 26

As Ganga deteriorates to its "worst situation ever", environmentally and aesthetically, with BJP ally JD-U warning about the future of much-celebrated National Waterway-1 project and noted environmentalist Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand aka G.D. Agrawal going on a fast after receiving no reply to a letter to his fellow "Gangaputra" Prime Minister Narendra Modi, experts say the holy river's downward journey is continuing, unabated. 

"Ganga's downward journey of past three decades is continuing, it has not reversed or changed in 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 Ganga and his constituency Varanasi in 2014, Thakkar said the situation had worsened further in the past four years.  

Meanwhile, Agarwal (Sanand), in his recent letter, also reminded the PM that like him he was also "Gangaputra" and determined to carry his fast till the end.

Modi's electoral promise from ghats of Varanasi to clean the Ganga was huge and one that had been attempted several times in the past, without much success. (Read: Ganga finds a powerful new 'putra')

"This time there was hope. But four years down the line, apart from statements and plans there seem 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 any 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.

Notably, Kumar and Sanand are both asking the Centre to ensure 'aviral' flow in 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 Ganga by March 2019. It is a general perception that nothing significant is being done under Namami Gange Programme but this is not correct. 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 20,000 crore allocated for the programme was not exactly solving the problem. "There has to be a concrete plan for de-siltation and ensure that 'aviral' flow is maintained and Ganga is rejuvenated," he says. 

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