Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: The World Bank on Wednesday announced a soft loan of $one billion in the next 5 to 7 years for the recently launched National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to clean and conserve the river.

The support would include substantial financing over several phases as well as assistance in building a consortium of financiers. The initial phases of this long-term support would focus on building and strengthening the NGRBA and related institutions, including a world-class Ganga Knowledge Centre.

“Visionary leadership”

Speaking on the occasion, the World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said India had shown “visionary leadership” to address the challenge of conserving large rivers and the Bank would begin its engagement by facilitating the exchange of relevant experience from elsewhere such as river Thames.

“We hope this will assist in the improved management of this great river basin that supports close to 400 million people in India alone,” Mr. Zoellick said.

The Ganga has sustained civilisations throughout time, but is today burdened by expanding production, industries and urban development along its banks and in its basin, with all the pollution this brings. According to the joint statement issued by Mr. Zoellick and the Minister of State (Independent charge) for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, the World Bank will seek to support government’s national programme to clean and conserve the Ganga through substantial financing over several phases, with the first of several loans planned for presentation to the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors for approval between July 2010 and June 2011.

Pledge

Under the ‘Mission Clean Ganga,’ the Authority has resolved that by year 2020 no untreated municipal sewage or industrial effluents will be discharged into the Ganga.

An investment of $4 billion is currently planned to meet this objective.

More In: NEW DELHI | NATIONAL