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Ganga clean up: members of panel differ on ways to do it

Thursday, 14 August 2014 - 5:25am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Consensus eludes on many issues within a committee of secretaries set up a month ago to find ways for prime minister Narendra Modi's pet project of cleansing river Ganga.

The issue of flood plain management and viability of inland water ways have marked disagreements within departments, who are giving divergent views.

While some departments favour reclaiming flood land for the burgeoning population, others argue to leave it unattended to provide a space for the river. Also there has been no agreement on the viability of inland water ways, though some believe that navigation would automatically de-silt the river and provide economical transport system.

However, there is a near consensus putting a stamp on building dams on the river and its tributaries, in order to allow minimum ecological flow in the river.

"Over half a dozen meetings have already taken place but process is not yet over. It will definitely take some more time to reach consensus and finalise the plans. But one issue where is complete consensus is that to rejuvenate Ganga and ensuring a minimum ecological flow by charting a concrete policy on dams," a senior government officer, who is part of the committee told dna.

He said government would have to take a decisive call on number of projects that can be allowed on Ganga on upstream as the area is seismically very sensitive. "We still do not know what kind of pressure is building on the Indian tectonic plate due to those big dams," the official said. The issue may draw much controversy as, not only the public sector, but many private players are engaged in building dams and producing electricity in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Another issue before the committee is to take a decision on the flow of untreated sewerage and industrial waste from towns and industry areas into Ganga or its tributaries. The operation and maintenance of sewage plants has to be economically sustainable. The committee has been studying a model in Tami Nadu, where entire sewerage system, driven by municipalities, is funded by the contribution from people. Every household pays less than Rs100 per month for sewerage treatment.

A section of the committee is also of the view that a strong political will was needed for a long-term, say 20 year plan, to clean Ganga. The committee has also underlined a fact, that without involvement of people, no progress can be made. There is also a clamour on harvesting rain water for recharging ground water in order to decrease pressure on Ganga. "Most importantly people at large, state governments, farmers and industry have to be brought on board," the senior official said.

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