Rejuvenating Ganga: Project to make the river clean & uninterrupted may cost Rs 100,000 Crores

Over the past four years, when experts from seven IITs have brainstormed over several meetings on how to rejuvenate the river Ganga, they stumbled upon two words in the Hindi lexicon — aviral and nirmal.

None of the professors from IIT Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee is a Hindi scholar, but they knew aviral (uninterrupted) and nirmal (clean) would form the crux of their comprehensive study on the Ganga basin, mandated by the Union ministry of environment and forests in July 2010.

And ET Magazine has learnt that their main report likely to be submitted next month may indicate a cost of a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore to make the Ganga aviral and nirmal.

That’s a huge number that gets further magnified when you consider that only Rs 1,825 crore was spent in cleaning the Ganga between 1985 and 2009 in phases of the Ganga Action Plan, or GAP as it’s popularly called. Suresh Prabhu, who as union environment minister in 1998-99 had implemented phase-II of GAP, recalls: “The plan was appropriately named. There were so many gaps in the scheme…what’s needed now is a comprehensive approach.”

Rejuvenating Ganga

That comprehensive plan includes cleaning the Ganga’s tributaries, city management, tourism development and creating a navigation channel from Allahabad to Haldia in West Bengal. It’s a plan that calls for, along with huge resources, a large-scale vision.

Quiet Flows the Ganga

Uma Bharti, Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, is confident of an aviral funding for the project. Her ministry, and not the ministry of environment and forests as in the previous government, will implement the Ganga plans. “There won’t be any shortage of funds for the Ganga rejuvenation programme”, she said while addressing a deliberation titled ” Ganga Manthan” in New Delhi in early July.

Rejuvenating Ganga

Bharti’s palpable confidence stems from the solid political backing she has of the prime minister, Narendra Modi. After all, Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga is Modi’s parliamentary constituency. When Modi decided to retain Varanasi after winning from two seats, Gujarat’s Vadodara being the other, he evoked sentiments attached to the river.

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