Will The National Mission For Clean Ganga Achieve Its Goals By 2020?

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was initiated during the Congress-led UPA regime, way back on August 12, 2011. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took the project further after they came to power. The latest Right To Information (RTI) report has made some startling revelations.

It says the Modi-led government had released even less than one-third of the total amount committed towards the cleansing of the Ganga River. During the past four years of the NDA government, the Namami Gange Programme is said to have received only Rs 6,000 crore from its promised sum of Rs 20,000 crore, which was sanctioned for the resuscitation of the river. The major objectives of this programme were effectual desisting/curbing of pollution, and as I mentioned, sustention and rejuvenation of the river.

The fund released by the Government of India (GOI) till June 30, 2018, is nothing close to the money promised for the project. The Modi government had stated that Rs 2,037 has been released initially, but the actual scenario was totally different. The RTI data publicised that only Rs 326 crore was released during the financial year. According to Punjab-based RTI activist, Dinesh Chadha, the NMCG had not even been able to utilise the granted Rs 6,211.27 crores to clean up the river. Data reveals only Rs 4,322.37 crore had been utilised out of the said sanctioned amount.

In my opinion, the government’s Namami Gange project was a mere eyewash for citizens like us, promising a pollution-free Ganga; but it has actually proved to be a non-starter. In its reply to India Today’s RTI application, the Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry recounted a 58% increase in besmirching, from faecal coliform bacteria, in Varanasi City’s Ganga waterway.

After all, Varanasi is a major tourist attraction for maximum devotees who bathe in the holy river. However, the statistics are appalling. A surplus of 2,500 coliform bacteria in 100 ml water was found, and that was considered very unsafe for bathing. Water samples collected from Varanasi’s Malviya Bridge revealed bacterial smirching, which was almost 20 times higher than its official measurable standards. “There are five priority drains having a flow more than one million litres per day, which are joining into river Ganga in Varanasi,” said the ministry, in its RTI reply, citing data from the Central Pollution Control Board.

Another aftermath of this pollution is the death of aquatic life, along the banks of the river of this ancient city. The reason behind this is low oxygen in those areas. Corroboration in the ministry’s reply admitted a drop in the dissolved oxygen content at Assi Ghat, from 8.6 mg/l in 2014 to 7.5 mg/l in 2017.

The same contaminated river passes through hundreds of towns, cities, and villages before submerging itself in the Bay of Bengal. As per GOI, not only Varanasi, but the Ganga is also absorbing waste from 144 drains of the five major states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Out of 144 drains, the government has managed to shut only 10 new drains, and the rest overflow, with the bacterial contaminated, low oxygen water, which poisons the flowing Ganga.

In Kanpur, there is blackish-grey sludge on the riverside, and it is attributed to the polluted discharges from the unauthorised tanneries. “The Ganga cannot be cleaned only by the initiatives taken by the government,” said Amit Dixit, a local resident. “People must also be aware of, and actively participate in the cleanliness drive.”

Though certain tanneries have been shut, there are others which are operational, at Kanpur’s Jajmau area. Sewage disposal drains and open defecation are some of the common reasons for the Ganga pollution in Bihar and West Bengal. “The Ganga in the northern part of Bengal is the most polluted part of the river, with a very high count of coliform of over 160,000 per litre,” said Dr. Sugata Hazra, a professor and director at the Jadavpur University’s school of oceanographic studies. “Even the amount of untreated sewage of 1,800 litre per day is disposed to this river. Now, this water is not suitable for drinking or even bathing as there is heavy metal contamination,” Dr Hazra warned.

This is the status of the Namani Gange project which was launched in June 2014, for a period till December 2020. Though the government has listed several initiatives for the river clean up, they are just not happening in a time-bound manner. For example, new sewer treatment projects, (STPs) a joint venture of public and private entrepreneurship, the first of its kind in India, is apparently in progress in Varanasi. An official also confirmed work is under progress for several other sewage treatment plants.

2019 is drawing to a close. Let us hope that the project Namami Gange will not let us down and we will have a pollution-free Ganga in our country, by 2020. What say, folks, at this rate will we succeed?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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