Claiming that the National Ganga River Basin Authority has become a toothless organisation which has made no change to the government’s neglect of the national river, three of its non-governmental members have submitted their resignations to the Prime Minister, who chairs the body.
“In three years of the NGRBA’s existence, we have only had two meetings,” said Rajendra Singh, the Magsaysay Award winner, known as the Waterman for his efforts in water harvesting and management in the arid villages of Rajasthan. “In that same three year period, the Authority is spending over Rs. 6,000 crore, but we do not have any details about how the money is being used…There is no accountability,” he told The Hindu soon after submitting his resignation. The last meeting of the NGRBA was held in November 2010.
Along with Mr. Singh, two other members of the NGRBA’s policy-making Apex Council have resigned: Ravi Chopra of the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun and former Aligarh Muslim University professor Rashid Hyatt Siddiqui.
The Authority was created in February 2009 after widespread protests that the earlier Ganga Action Plan (Phase I) launched by then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 had failed to clean up the river. Now activists are complaining that the government is repeating its mistakes, breaking its own promises and continuing its neglect of the river.
“They promised that the 135 km stretch from Gomukh to Uttarkashi would be a protected ecological zone. But [the government] has given permission for 50 new dams along that stretch. What kind of protection is this?” asked Mr. Singh. “They have declared the Ganga as the national river on paper, but they are not treating it with any respect.”
The three NGRBA members are also quitting in solidarity with Swami Gyan Swarup Anand – formerly known as retired IIT professor G.D. Agarwal – who is on a fast-unto-death to persuade the government to scrap all hydel projects under construction on the Ganga or its tributaries which disrupt the natural flow of their waters. After one month of no food, the activist sanyasi has also stopped drinking water from March 9 to up the pressure on the government. In 2010, his 36-day fast had resulted in three major hydel projects being abandoned.