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CAG raps Ministry over lack of progress in Ganga action plan

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, Dec. 27

THE Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has rapped the Department of Environment for its poor and lacklustre implementation of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in which the Union Government has released a total of Rs 988 crore since its inception i n 1993.

In a recent audit review on the GAP, the CAG said the plan has met only 39 per cent of its primary target of sewage treatment based on the performance reported by the participating States: Haryana, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The Government released a total of Rs 987.88 crore, out of which the States have reported expenditure of Rs 901.71 crore till March 2000. The review covers the span from 1993 to 2000, entailing Rs 655.23 crore of the total releases.

Ganga runs its course of over 2500 km from Gangotri in the Himalayas to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal through 29 cities with population over 1,00,000 (Class-I cities), 23 cities with population between 50,000 and 1,00,000 (class II cities) and about 4 8 towns.

The Department of Environment in December 1984 prepared an action plan for immediate reduction of pollution load on the river Ganga. The Union Cabinet approved the GAP in April 1985 as a 100 per cent Centrally sponsored scheme. Though the Central Ganga A uthority was set up in February 1985 which was subsequently renamed as the National River Conservation Authority under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister in September 1985 to oversee the implementation of the GAP, this apex body headed by the Prime M inister to monitor the plan met only twice in 1994 and 1997, the report said.

Stating that there were ``heavy shortfalls'' in the achievement of targets of creation of assets and facilities under the Plan, the CAG report said even those ``achievements'' were poor signs of the extent of success of the plan,as most of them did not f unction either fully or partially for a variety of reasons.

It said the Ministry left to the States the crucial determinants of sewage characteristics and downstream water quality for selection of towns for Phase-II of the plan, leading to non-uniformity in selection across the States and many questionable inclus ions and exclusions. It said the Ministry had no mechanism to evaluate the estimations of sewage by the States.

On the evaluation of the scheme, it said Phase-I of the plan is not yet fully complete, even after delay of over a decade, while Phase-II too is behind its schedule. It is due to end in December 2001, but there are reports of creation of only 13.7 per ce nt of the targeted sewage treatment capacity so far.

Even as the States reported expenditure of Rs 587.63 crore out of Government funds, audit check in the States found many instances of financial mismanagement such as funds diversion to unauthorised activities (Rs 36.07 crore), incorrect reporting

(Rs 6.75 crore) and parking of funds by Bihar Rajya Jal Parshad

(BRJP) in its own personal account (Rs 1.17 crore) and unutilised funds with the implementing agencies (Rs 72.62 crore).

The CAG found that Bihar could not obtain any sanction from the Ministry for interception and diversion scheme in the phase-II of the plan, as it did not submit detailed project reports as per the Ministry's guidelines.

Audit check in the States revealed many instances of administrative delays, leading to cost escalations, faulty designs of the schemes, lack of necessary spade work such as soil testing, leading to damage to equipment, bad contract management, stolen equ ipment, idling of expensive equipment and in general poor maintenance.

The CAG also faulted the Ministry for having discontinued the water quality monitoring, a key instrument for technical assessment of the success of the plan, since September 1999 reportedly due to fund constraints. Collateral findings reveal further dete rioration of water quality in all its parameters, it noted.

Referring to industrial pollution, it said only about 45 per cent of the grossly polluting industrial units had installed effluent treatment plants. Over 18 per cent of those did not function properly and did not meet the technical standards. Those units discharged industrial effluent of 2667.16 mld into the rivers. The NRCD had no mechanism to see that the installed plants functioned satisfactorily, the report said.

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