Congress leader Jairam Ramesh today accused the NDA government of turning the programme to clean Ganga as a "Hindutva project" by attempting to polarise politics through the initiative on the holy river.
"Don't look it as a Hindutva project. This is not a Hindutva project. This is a national project. Don't try to polarise politics through Ganga cleaning," Ramesh told the government ahead of the first national dialogue on river Ganga - Ganga Manthan - being organised by the Centre tomorrow.
The former Environment Minister said the government's Ganga Mission programme should be a people's programme and "we must involve society". "But don't make it on sadhus and sant's programme. Ganga is a national river. Ganga defines Indian culture," he said, adding Jawaharlal Nehru also spoke about the role of Ganga in Indian culture.
Union and state ministers, MPs, experts, NGOs, sadhus and sants are expected to participate in the day-long brainstorming on Ganga cleaning plan.
Spelling out the steps taken by the previous UPA government to conserve the holy river, Ramesh said, "The NDA is going about this whole thing as if nothing has happened." He accused the BJP-led government of not acknowledging the initiatives taken by the UPA including establishment of National Ganga River Basin Authority for cleaning Ganga.
NGRBA was established in 2009 when Ramesh was Environment Minister. "They are not talking of NGRBA, they are not talking of IIT-River Basin management plan, we declared 100 kms stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as eco-sensitive zone," the Rajya Sabha member said. "What is (Water Resources Minister) Uma Bharti talking... It has already started... My objection is that the NDA government is behaving as if nothing has happened in the past. Rajiv Gandhi launched Ganga Action Plan in 1986. "UPA government declared Ganga as a national river in 2009. We declared Gangetic dolphin as a national aquatic animal," he said.
Noting that the Ganga clean programme was not a new idea and this had been going on, Ramesh said, "You must build on what has happened. Don't destroy what has happened. Build on what has happened."
"Had Rajiv Gandhi not started Ganga Action Plan, Ganga would have been much dirtier than what it is today," he claimed.
The former Union minister said the Mission Clean Ganga launched in 2009 by the UPA had two objectives-- Nirmal Dhara which means clean Ganga and Aviral Dhara which means minimum ecological flow. He said up to March 31, in four years, Rs 6400 crore worth of projects were cleared by the UPA for building sewage treatment plants and sewer network for towns and cities on the banks of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. "Rs 840 crore have already been spent," Ramesh said.
He said that during UPA rule, 764 grossly polluting industries on the Ganga were identified. "704 industries have been inspected by the CPCB. Under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, CPCB has been empowered to issue direction to all these industries to either install pollution control equipment or to close it down," the Congress leader said elaborating on the steps taken by the UPA government to clean the river.
He said it was during the previous government, for the first time all seven IITs came together and prepared National Ganga River Basin Management Plan. "First time a basin management plan has been prepared. Thirty-seven reports have been submitted to Environment Ministry. This is seven IITs led by IIT Kanpur and they have also suggested a draft law to keep the Ganga clean," he said.
He said the UPA government even stopped construction of three hydel projects --Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri and Bhairon Ghati--on Bhagiradhi River in Uttarakhand for "aviral dhara" of river Ganga. "On Loharinag Pala, NTPC has already spent Rs 800 crore. But because of faith and because of the need to keep the aviral dhara, government of India decided that these projects will not be implemented," he said. "We declared 100 km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as eco-sensitive zone," Ramesh said.