River Ganga is all set for a makeover.
The Centre wants to develop the river as a tourism destination, as a means of transport, fisheries hub and for power generation. And Narendra Modi, within a fortnight of taking over as Prime Minister, has set the ball rolling to change the polluted river into a world-class tourism and infrastructure hub.
Ganga is the lifeline for a huge chunk of population, starting from its point of origination in Gangotri, Uttarakhand to West Bengal wherein it empties in the Bay of Bengal. During this journey of around 2,500 kilometers, industrial waste, sewerage, human and cattle carcases and a lot of other untreated waste and chemicals are dumped into river.
During his election campaign, Modi had promised to take measures to clean up the river. The quick movement on the issue indicates the seriousness that the government is attaching to the issue. The first step on the river's clean-up and development came on Friday afternoon when an inter-ministerial group chaired by transport minister Nitin Gadkari met. The meeting was attended by Union minister for water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti, environment & forest minister Prakash Javadekar and tourism minister Shripada Yasso Naik. Besides, the department dealing with river conservation is also expected to move soon to Uma Bharti's ministry for better coordination.
The panel formed an inter-ministerial committee of secretaries. In a month, this committee will submit a report offering a comprehensive road map for the government to move ahead on the matter. Following the report, a cabinet note will be prepared to get the project off the ground, said Gadkari.
"We have decided to meet from time to time to take forward this issue, which is a top priority for the government and a subject included in our party-manifesto," said water resources minister Uma Bharti.
The learnings from the cleaning of the River Ganga will then be extended for the development of other rivers, said Bharti.
Detailing how the river will be used for transport, Gadkari said: "The river will be widened by 45 meters and deeper by 3 meters in the first phase to ferry passengers and goods between Varanasi and Hoogly.
Eleven terminals are proposed to be constructed along the Ganga's banks."
Barrages are proposed at every 100 kms on the river. "Facilities for transport of coal, fertiliser and foodgrain on the river will also be developed (as it is very cost effective). A research institute on the Ganga is also proposed to be set up under the HRD ministry, possibly at Roorkee," said Gadkari.
Environment ministry, on the other hand, will work on solutions to make the river pristine by taking various measures at Kanpur and other places.
As per a parliamentary committee report in 2012, (starting from the eight five-year plan onwards, Rs 39,225.95 crore has been allotted for the Ganga Action Plan-II to clean the river under various schemes, but pollution in the river continues to increase.