Marking a shift in emphasis, the Union government’s flagship Namami Gange programme, conceived to improve the sanitation levels in the Ganga river is now geared towards conservation, tourism and providing economic livelihoods.
At a meeting, earlier this week, of the top body tasked with coordinating Namami Gange activities and chaired by Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat the thrust of decisions focused on having the Tourism Ministry develop a “comprehensive plan” for developing tourism circuits along the Ganga in line with “ Arth Ganga,” organic farming and cultural activities.
Arth Ganga, or harnessing economic potential from the Ganga, follows from a directive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2019 after chairing a similar meeting of the Ganga taskforce.
Proceedings of the meeting, held on December 8, suggest that along with developing “tourism circuits” the Ministry was planning exhibitions and fairs in 75 towns along the main stem of the river; the Agriculture Ministry was taking steps to build organic farming and natural farming corridors; the urban affairs ministry was focussed on mapping drains and solid waste management and, the environment ministry was scaling up afforestation and scaling up conservation efforts to protect the Gangetic river dolphin.
Asok Kumar, Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), said in a statement that in the last six months, several workshops and visits had been organised for farmers who were being “nudged and sensitised” to shift to ‘natural farming.’
The Power Ministry was working to reuse treated wastewater of thermal power and the Rural Development Ministry looking to rejuvenate small rivers and protect traditional water bodies.
In States, the focus would be expeditiously completing projects and every Ganga district was expected to develop a scientific plan and health card for at least 10 wetlands and adopt policies for reuse of treated water and other by products.
Since 2014, when the cleaning of the Ganga was launched as a marquee government programme, close to ₹30,000 crore had been sanctioned for various projects, including building and improving sewers, and river rejuvenation activities. Updated estimates from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) suggest that of 408 projects sanctioned under the programme, 228 have been completed, 132 are ‘in progress,’ with the rest in various stages of tendering.