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Ganga clean-up: Department exists, notification doesn\'t

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 - 6:25am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The department dealing with the river Ganga's clean-up and refurbishment has not been shifted to the new ministry department created especially for the purpose three weeks after the new government was sworn in.

The Ganga rejuvenation project is viewed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project since he vowed to refurbish the holy river during his election campaign in Varanasi. Since taking office on May 28, Modi has chaired an inter-ministerial meetings on the project with his ministers. The NDA government even created a separate department called Ganga Rejuvenation and River Development under the Union water resources ministry, being led by Uma Bharti.

In the last three weeks though, the government's cabinet secretariat has not issued a notification to transfer the work related to the river from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to the Ministry of water resources (MoWR). MoEF had been spearheading the Ganga clean-up process thus far.

"An inter-ministerial group is meeting over the issue and they have also formed a committee of secretaries, headed by secretary of the water resources ministry, to devise a roadmap in a month for cleaning the Ganga river. But if someone expects a secretary-level officer to do all planning work then it is wrong. It would be carried out by a commissioner-level official, but that can only be done once that notification comes out," a senior water resources ministry official told dna. "At present, all the departments related to Ganga cleaning are under the environment ministry. So, on ground, neither the environment ministry is able to do anything, nor the water ministry."

Apart from cleaning of the river, the committee of secretaries has to draw up a beautification, shipping and tourism plan for river Ganga by July 6. This plan will then be taken up by the group of four ministers before it is sent to the Cabinet for approval. Officials at the MoWR explained that the cabinet secretariat will have to issue a notification stating 'Amendment of the Allocation of Business Rules' that will make the Water Resources ministry as the point ministry for the Ganga rejuvenation project.

"Work on the plan will take off only after all the Ganga files come from the environment ministry, which will happen only after the cabinet secretariat issues a notification, making Ganga cleaning a subject matter of MoWR," said another senior official of the ministry of water resources.

When asked, water resources minister Uma Bharti brushed aside the issue and refused to comment on the notification.

The first official government effort for Ganga conservation was started by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. His government launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the first phase of which started in 1985. The second phase of this project and of other river schemes were merged and came under the centrally-sponsored National River Conservation Plan.

Since then, as per a parliamentary committee report in 2012, an amount of Rs. 39,225.95 crore has been incurred on Ganga Action Plan-II under various schemes or projects, but pollution level in the river continues to increase unabated.

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