New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, on 14 December. The Council has been given overall responsibility for superintendence of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of the Ganga river basin, including Ganga and its tributaries. The first meeting of the Council was aimed at reinforcing the importance of a ‘Ganga-centric’ approach in all departments of the concerned states as well as relevant Central Ministries.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by Union Ministers for Jal Shakti (Gajendra Singh Shekhawat), Environment (Prakash Javadekar), Agriculture & Rural Development and Urban Affairs (Narendra Singh Tomar), Health (Harsh Vardhan), Power (RK Singh), Tourism (Prahlad Singh Patel), Shipping (Mansukh Mandaviya) and Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh (Yogi Adityanath) and Uttarakhand (Trivender Singh Rawat), Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar (Sushil Kumar Modi), Vice Chairman NITI Aayog (Rajiv Kumar) and other senior officials. The state of West Bengal was not present in the meeting and Jharkhand did not participate because of the ongoing elections and the Model Code of Conduct being in force.
Prime Minister Modi, while reviewing the progress of work done and deliberating on various aspects of cleaning the Ganga river with a focus on ‘swachhta’, ‘aviralta’ and ‘nirmalta’, said the Ganga is the holiest river on the sub-continent and its rejuvenation should embody a shining example of cooperative federalism.
Modi said that rejuvenation of Ganga has been a long pending challenge for the country, and noted that a lot had been accomplished since the Government took up ‘Namami Gange’ in 2014 as a comprehensive initiative integrating various government efforts and activities with the aim of pollution abatement, conservation and rejuvenation of Ganga, notable achievements being zero waste creation by paper mills and reduction in pollution from tanneries; but saying that much more needs to be done.
For the first time, the Central Government had made a commitment of Rs. 20,000 crores for the period 2015-20 to the five states through which Ganga flows, to ensure adequate as well as uninterrupted water flows in the river. Rs. 7,700 crores have already been spent so far, prominently for construction of new sewage treatment plants.
Modi observed that an improved framework for Nirmal Ganga would require the fullest cooperation of the public at large and greater awareness through dissemination of best practices from cities situated along the banks of the river, saying that efficiency of District Ganga Committees should be improved in all districts in order to provide an effective framework for the expeditious implementation of plans.
The Government has set up the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) to facilitate contributions from individuals, NRIs, and corporate entities for funding Ganga rejuvenation projects, to which the PM has “personally” donated Rs. 16.53 crores, from the amount realized from auction of the gifts he received since 2014 and the prize money of the Seoul Peace prize, said the PMO in a Press communication.
Modi urged the fostering or a holistic thinking process where ‘Namami Gange’ evolves to ‘Arth Ganga’, or a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to Ganga.
As part of this process, farmers should be encouraged to engage in sustainable agriculture practices, including zero budget farming, planting of fruit trees, and building plant nurseries on the banks of Ganga, Modi said, adding that priority could be given to women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and ex-servicemen organizations for these programs.
Such practices, along with creation of infrastructure for water sports and development of camp sites, cycling and walking tracks would help to tap the ‘hybrid’ tourism potential of the river basin area for purposes of religious as well as adventure tourism, noted Modi, adding that the income generated from encouraging eco-tourism and Ganga wildlife conservation and cruise tourism would help to generate sustainable income streams for cleaning the Ganga.
For monitoring the work progress and activities from various schemes and initiatives under Namami Gange and Arth Ganga, the PM also provided directions for the setting up a digital dashboard where data from villages and urban bodies should be monitored on a daily basis by NITI Ayog and Ministry of Jal Shakti, saying that like aspirational districts, all districts bordering the Ganga should be made a focus area for monitoring efforts under Namami Gange.
Prior to the meeting, Narendra Modi paid floral tributes to legendary freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad and viewed an exhibition on ‘Namami Gange’ interventions and projects at the Chandrashekhar Azad Agriculture University, and later in the day visited Atal Ghat and inspected the successfully completed work of cleaning at Sisamau Nala.