The Union Cabinet has approved changes allowing the National Mission for Clean Ganga to fine those responsible for polluting the river. Earlier this power was vested solely with the Central Pollution Control Board.
“We wanted powers of the Environment Protection Act,” said Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. “This will help us tackle 22 drains responsible for 90% of the pollution of the river.”
The Rs. 20,000-crore National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is among the flagship initiatives of the government and though at least 230 projects have been sanctioned this year there is very little progress on the ground in various States along the river such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttarakhand among others. The bulk of the river cleaning projects involve setting up of sewage treatment plants, installing trash skimmers and beautifying the ghats.Registered society
The NMCG has been a registered society since 2012 and its role is largely to fund projects to implementing organisations. It didn’t have legal powers to “tackle various threats” or issue directions to polluters. “The mission was grossly ill-equipped to handle such expectations,” said a press note by the Water Ministry accompanying the Union Cabinet order.
The NMCG, which now has the status of an Authority, will have a two-tier management structure with a governing council to be chaired by a Director General. There will also be State-level committees.
“A key focus of the authority will be maintaining required ecological flows in the Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development,” said Ms. Bharti.