Plan for navigation in Ganga basin questioned

July 08, 2014 04:29 am | Updated May 24, 2016 12:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Contradictory views emerged during the National Dialogue on Ganga (Ganga Manthan) here on Monday with a majority of stakeholders, including saints and NGOs, questioning the government plan for navigation and construction of modern dams in the river basin.

They sought to know how the government would ensure a “continuous and uninterrupted” (aviral and nirmal) flow of the river from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar if there are plans to build barrages and bridges at every 100 kilometre to enable small ships to navigate. They also sought clarity on big dams that may come up in the river basin and development of ghats as tourist destinations with introduction of house-boats.

Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said, “To ensure continuous and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga is our top priority and this will be done through involvement of people.”

Although the consultation was held to arrive at a consensus on the broad parameters on rejuvenation of the Ganga and its tributaries, Union Minister for Shipping and Transportation Nitin Gadkari let the cat out of the bag saying that his Ministry had taken the decision on navigation of small ships between Varanasi and Hooghly for which a loan had been sought from the World Bank. It is proposed to conduct dredging to provide a width of 45 m and 5 m draft (depth) to enable navigation of small ships between Varanasi and Hooghly on the Ganga. “We might get Rs. 4000 crore for this project and it is in the last stage,” he said. “But the decision is not final,” he added.

Opposing the navigation move, Swami Avimukteshwar Anand Saraswathi from Badrinath told The Hindu that harnessing the Ganga at every 100 km is “not acceptable.” “The Ganga by itself is not polluted. To restore its pristine glory, the municipalities, the Urban Development ministry, the pollution boards should work and above all, awareness has to be created in people.”

Speaking to The Hindu, ‘Waterman’ Rajinder Singh said there should be no new dams on the river and no new cement-concrete constructions should be allowed on river land. River land should be identified, demarcated and notified and banks should be forested, he said.

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