Nagpur/New Delhi: Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari was today morning also allocated portfolios of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Uma Bharti, who had these portfolios, has now been given charge of Drinking Water and Sanitation which was held by Narendra Singh Tomar.
Namami Gange… has so far been a non starter
One of the main promises that Narendra Modi had made as PM Candidate of BJP was clean up of river Ganga. He chose to contest elections from Varanasi to underline this intention and his commitment to Ganga.
A survey of its waters has found that forget drinking it, Ganga water is not safe for even bathing or taking in your hands for ‘anjali’. Even today.
And the irony is that Ganga is most polluted and dirtiest along the ghats of his constituency Benaras only.
Ganga Action Plan and after
Ganga is India’s largest river basin: it covers 26 per cent of the country’s landmass and supports 43 per cent of its population. In 1986, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). In August 2009, GAP was re-launched with a reconstituted National Ganga River Basin Authority. The objectives in the past 30-odd years have remained the same: to improve the water quality of the river to acceptable standards (defined as bathing water quality standards) by preventing pollution form reaching it – in other words, intercepting the sewage and treating it before discharge into the river. But despite programmes, funds and lot of attention attention, the Ganga still runs polluted. Very polluted.
Crores have flown ‘down the drain’ already
After getting elected, India’s Prime minister Modi affirmed to work in cleaning the river and controlling pollution. The Namami Ganga project was announced by the government with much fanfare in the July 2014 budget. An estimated Rs 2,958 Crores have been spent till July 2016 in various efforts in cleaning up of the river. But it seems to have been money flown down the river!
The tragedy is, that being considered ‘holy’ by all Hindus is one of the main reasons that Ganga is dirty!
Religious traditions that destroy Ganga
During festival seasons, over 70 million people bathe in the Ganga to clean themselves from their past sins. Some materials like food, waste or leaves are left in the Ganga which are responsible for its pollution. While people drinking from the Ganga and bathing in its waters are spiritual experiences, it is also part of Indian traditional beliefs that being cremated on its banks and to float down the Ganges will atone for the deceased past sins and carry him directly to salvation. In Varanasi / Benaras alone, an estimated forty thousand bodies are cremated every year, many of
those are only half-burnt. Locals report that bodies of infants who die young, is not even burnt, but just ‘flown’ into the river.
Tests of Ganges water done by the Central Pollution Control Board show such alarming amounts of BOD (dissolved Oxygen) and Bacteria Coliform around Haridwar and more so in Varanasi that the World Bank has estimated that 12% population living along the banks falls sick due to this.
Uma Bharati, one of the the senior BJP leaders in Modi’s cabinet, who has been C.M. of a big state like Madhya Pradesh has failed in the task given to her – or was not equal to it.
We cannot really blame her, the task is stupendous.
A Challenge for Gadkari
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, is widely believed to be the ‘best performing Minister’ of Modi government.
He has covered himself with glory in the way he has handled construction of highways across the nation. He is credited to have hastened the pace of construction, brought down costs and even restarted stalled projects.
He is already handling river transport, so Indian rivers have been in his purview.
It is to be seen now how he can bring his ‘chemistry’ of success to clean India’s national river.
The challenges will be many, polluting industries on the banks of the river, sewage getting discharged into it, to effects of ‘Ganga Puja.’
People of Nagpur, will be with Gadkari as he takes on this onerous job. We believe, if anyone can do it, he is the man!