River Ganga's conservation and development was a major talking point for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign and the Union budget provided a glimpse of what's in store for the river with Rs 2,150 crore being allocated for its conservation and ghats development while around Rs 4,200 crore granted for development of inland waterways on Ganga between Allahabad and Haldia.
The budget also talked about India's efforts towards fighting climate change and tapping renewable energy.
"Substantial amount of money has been spent in the conservation and improvement of the Ganga, which has a special sacred place in the collective consciousness of this country. However, the efforts have not yielded desired results because of a lack of concerted effort by all the stakeholders," said finance minister Arun Jaitley while proposing an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called "Namami Gange" and setting aside a sum of Rs 2,037 crore for it.
He also sought to tap into NRIs to seek funds for Ganga river with the announcement of a "NRI Ganga Fund". Jaitley also proposed Rs 100 crore for the development of ghats and beautification of river fronts, especially sacred ones at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi.
But the biggest announcement regarding the development of rivers was regarding inland waterways on the Ganga for transportation of goods. Jaitley announced 'Jal Marg Vikas' (National Waterways-I) between Allahabad and Haldia — a distance of 1,620 km — to enable commercial navigation of at least 1,500 tonne vessels. The project will be completed over six years at an estimated cost of Rs 4,200 crore. The finance minister also proposed Rs 100 crore to expedite preparation of reports to undertake river interlinking.
The budget made a substantial increase in fund allocation to the water resources ministry from Rs 700 crore in the 2013-14 budget to Rs 13,237 crore this year. Likewise, the department of space was allocated Rs 6,000 crore, up from Rs 4,000 crore last year while the department of science and technology got Rs 6,725 crore up from Rs 5,145 crore last year.