Cleaning the Ganga river was one of the major poll promises made by the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But, till now, the government has failed to show any substantive results in this area. Ahead of next years’s Lok Sabha polls, the Centre has now set March 2019 as the new deadline to clean river Ganga, and ensured a “70 to 80%” improvement in its water quality. Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the government’s spending this fiscal year will witness a spike as more projects under the flagship ‘Namami Gange’ scheme will be completed.
Since 2015, the National Mission For Clean Ganga (NMCG), which is implementing the project, has spent only 20% of the Rs. 20,000 crore sanctioned by the government. “Twenty per cent of the amount was spent till March (2018). This year, there will be lot of expenditure… as per my assessment, we will be able to spend 60 to 70% of the funds,” Gadkari told reporters in the month of May.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari has, however, expressed that the Ganga river will become completely clean by 2020. He said that most of the 221 projects under the Namami Gange Mission worth Rs. 22,238 crore are at advanced stages of completion. The Namami Gange Mission consists of 221 projects, 194 of which deal with constructing STPs, rural sanitation and bioremediation largely spanning Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, which are responsible for most of the pollution, he said. “Considering the pace at which the works are awarded and getting completed, we are hopeful that by March 2020, river Ganga will be completely clean. It is a difficult task, but we will complete,” the Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister added.
But the sad reality is that such promises have been made before as well by the government. Earlier incharge of the ministry Ms Uma Bharti had said in 2016 that she would announce in the Parliament in July 2018 that the river has been cleaned and rejuvenated.
Earlier in 2015, she had made a similar claim that Ganga will be cleaned in a “qualitatively manner” within the next two years. “The plan for cleaning Ganga was made in 1985 but nothing happened in that direction in the last 29 years. As per my plan, we will clean Ganga in a qualitative manner in two years,” Bharti said in February 2015, according to a TOI report.
Hence, after already missing two deadlines, it is quite difficult to believe that with just 6-7 months left for the current government, up to 80% of the river will be cleaned by March 2019.
Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his promise to clean up the Ganga, the Congress said that an RTI query had revealed that the river was more polluted now than it was in May 2014, when the Modi government took charge. At a press conference, senior Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “While filing his nomination, Shri Narendra Modi said ‘First I thought the BJP sent me here, then I thought I am going to Kashi, but after I came here, I feel Maa Ganga has called me.’ Facts cut through the fog and the sheer betrayal of Mr. Modi’s promises has been exposed as the ‘Namami Gange’ project miserably falters.”
Meanwhile, amidst this political slug fest, the Ganga today is in a deplorable condition even after crores of rupees have been spent since the Ganga Action Plan of 1985; nothing concrete has been achieved yet. Hence, a clean Ganga seems to be a distant dream.