No untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluents will flow into the river Ganga by 2020 as part of 'Mission Clean Ganga', according to the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which met for the first time since its inception in February this year.
Last November, the Ganga was declared as a 'National River' and the NGRBA was set up as an empowered planning, implementing and monitoring authority for the Ganga River for which this year's budget has a special provision of Rs 250 crore. The NGRBA has as its members the chief ministers of four states through which the Ganga flows.
Monday's meeting, which lasted for almost three hours, was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by Jairam Ramesh, minister of state (independent charge), Environment and Forests, chief ministers of Uttarakhand and Bihar, representatives of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. They discussed proposals for effective cleaning up of the river, including the involvement of international financial institutions like the World Bank.
"An estimated investment of Rs 15,000 crore over next 10 years will be required to create the necessary treatment and sewerage infrastructure and the required resources will be provided by centre and states over ten-year period on a shared basis after Planning Commission consultations," Ramesh, told reporters in New Delhi after the meeting.
Currently, there is a sewage treatment capacity of only about 1000 million litres per Day (mld) against 3000 mld sewage being generated in the towns along the Ganga.
The authority also decided to draft a comprehensive river basin management plan ready by December 2010. Moreover, the Ministry for environment and Forest will be preparing specific action plans to deal with industrial pollution in Ganga Basin by 31 January 2010 besides studying hydro electric projects in the upper reaches of Bhagirathi.
The authority also decided to adopt new and innovative models for implementation like special purpose vehicles. Since February this year, the World Bank has supported NGRBA with an assistance of $1 billion for the first phase and a proposal of $3 million project preparation facility was forwarded to World Bank and has been approved.
"How to keep the Ganga clean and how the cities and towns situated on its banks, can be systematised, were among the issues which were discussed. We have urged the centre to give 1,000 Mw of power free of cost to us and also sought Rs 10,000 crore annually for the state's development, maintaining the Ganga and our forests as Uttarakhand has 65 per cent forest cover," said Uttarakhand CM Ramesh Pokhriyal after the meeting.
However, Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar doubted the capacity of the proposed institutional frame work to carry out the cleaning of the river Ganga and said that it needs to be re-examined. He pointed out that the design implementation of the projects have to be undertaken primarily at the state level and thus, there is a need for institutional structure and capacity building at the state level for which the Centre should provide financial and professional assistance. He also said that the proposed cost sharing pattern of 70:30 is not appropriate in view of the limited resources of the states.