Even as an estimated 2.25 crore pilgrims took a dip at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati on the first day of the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj, about 2,782 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage continues to flow into the Ganga as the ₹20,000-crore sewage treatment infrastructure project under Namami Gange is moving at a snail’s pace.
Of the 136 sewage projects planned across eight States to create 3,252.28 MLD sewage treatment capacity at a cost of ₹20,623 crore, only 31 projects with a capacity of just 468.19 MLD have been completed.
Sewage treatment plants
The total expenditure on completed projects is ₹3,934 crore, which is 19 per cent of the sanctioned cost. The death last October of activist GD Agarwal, who had been on a long fast seeking the cleaning up i the ganga, kicked off a debate on the government’s performance in the Namami Gange Programme.
Data from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) website show that out of 136 sewage treatment plant (STP) projects, 51 are part of old projects launched before May 2015 while the remaining 85 were launched after 2015. Interestingly, 25 old projects and only six of the new projects had been completed as on December 31, 2018.
Of the total treatment capacity created, the share of new projects is just 0.06 MLD, while that of old projects is 468.19 MLD. About 887 MLD capacity has been created through ‘rehabilitation’ of old STPs.
The Union Cabinet approved the programme in May 2015 to rejuvenate the Ganga by including of all its tributaries under one umbrella. Sewage infrastructure projects account for nearly half of all projects and over three-fourths of the expenditure under the NMCG.
NMCG officials claim there is no tardiness in implementing the projects. NMCG was registered as a society in August 2011. It acted as the implementation arm of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which was dissolved in October 2016, when the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga was constituted.
Only after the formation of the National Council did the NMCG get sanctioning authority. A large number of projects were sanctioned only a year ago and since March 2017, work is in full swing and the projects will take two years to show result, the officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last month: “There has been a drop in pollution levels in the Ganga river. As the Namami Gange campaign is moving ahead, the target of a clean and free-flowing Ganga is becoming clearer. Aquatic animals, including fish, have started returning to the Ganga.”