According to reports, the new Indian government is expected to set up an overarching administrative entity, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to clean the Ganga.
The exact contours of this body is yet to be revealed, but the entity could be a revamped National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which would be given a bigger mandate to integrate various piecemeal projects put in place by a host of governmental departments.
Fixing water pollution in Ganga will also allow for a robust partnership with private-firms involved in running “last-mile” treatments plants. Private firms will step in where public entities failed; a revenue model for cost recovery for private firm is also being worked on.
The mission also involves plans to re-do all major ghats – the array of stairs, on the river banks, that provide access to the river.
On August 13, India’s Supreme Court had reminded the government that since cleaning of Ganga was on its poll manifesto, it needed to take urgent steps to fulfil that commitment. It had also set a two-week timeline for the government to come up with a road map for making the 2,500-km long river pollution free.
More than one-third of India’s 1.2 billion people is said to live near the river, which is revered by Hindus as they trust its scared water to wash away their sins. Millions of Hindus make their way every year to ghats and bathe in the Ganga to purify their soul.
Yet, the river is also full of industrial effluent and untreated sewage, and its banks are filled with stinking garbage. Of the 11 billion litres of sewage that is dumped into the river, only 45% of it is treated.
The mission to clean Ganga figured prominently in the poll promises of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. During the campaign, Modi, who contested from Varanasi, made cleansing the Ganga an emotive poll plank. Modi returned to the theme in his victory speech he orated from the banks of river Ganga. “Maa (Mother) Ganga is waiting for her son to free her from pollution.”
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