Inland waterways project will ‘kill’ the Ganga, warn activists

A view of the river Ganga. —File photo: Virender Singh Negi  

The Centre’s plan to develop the Ganga as waterway for commercial activities would sound the death knell for the river that is already struggling for survival, feel experts and activists who have been working for the revival of the holy river.

“The Ganga is already dying a slow death due to severe pollution and upstream check of its flow. The government is now talking of constructing dams at every 100 km. Between Varanasi and Hooghly, which is around 1,600 km stretch, there will be 16 dams…This will kill the living river…It will be converted into 16 huge ponds, each with 100 km and 600-800 metres dimension,” says Prof V.N. Mishra of IIT-BHU, who heads the Sankat Mochan Foundation, a trust that works for cleaning and revival of the Ganga.

Incidentally, Prof. Mishra, who is also the ‘Mahant’ (head priest) of the famous Sankat Mochan temple, was in Delhi in June this year when the Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari announced plans to develop inland waterways in the Ganga from Varanasi to Hooghly via Bihar and create multi-purpose terminals for commercial use. This Rs.6,000-crore project will be the part of Rs.1-lakh crore ‘Clean Ganga’ project that the Modi government plans to undertake.

“I was horrified to hear how the government was planning to kill a river which is already struggling for its survival…Has the government studied the adverse environmental impact the river will suffer? What will happen to its aquatic life that is already struggling for survival? ” he said.

Warning that any further human interference with the flow of the Ganga would be disastrous, Prof. Mishra, said, “The Ganga is the lifeline of 40-crore people, so leave it alone. Just make efforts to clean it…By ensuring that not a single drop of sewage go into the river, we will address 90 per cent of the river’s problems.”

Echoing similar sentiments, U.K. Choudhary, an ex-IIT-BHU teacher and expert in river engineering, said 90 per cent the holy river was “killed” when it reaches the plains, and the rest when its free movement is further controlled. “Dams and barrages block the flow of the river.”