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Centre may soon ban all construction on Ganga

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New Delhi: All new construction activities may soon be banned on the banks of Ganga and all its tributaries to protect the ecology of the holy river and maintain its minimum environmental flow.

An in-principle decision towards this was taken at an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) meeting that was held last month. The decision was taken after reviewing the report submitted by an Expert Body that gave clearance to hydroelectric power (HEP) projects that have been proposed to be built on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins in Uttarakhand.

According to reports, a final decision will be taken after IMG-constituted five-member committee chaired by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar submits its comprehensive report on the issue. The committee is likely to examine all the aspects of the issue, ranging from environmental flow to longitudinal connectivity in the two rivers.

Shekhar has severely criticized the Experts Group report for giving clearances to five out of six HEP projects. The six proposed HEP projects are: NTPC’s Lata Tapavan, NHPC’s Kotlibhel IA, GMR’s Alaknanda, Super Hydro’s Khirao Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga, and THDC’s Jelam.

He has further conveyed to the IMG that the requirements of environmental flow and longitudinal connectivity proposed by the Experts Group are very inadequate and may leave the rivers without any water during non-monsoon seasons.

The IMG is comprised of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

After the devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, the Supreme Court had put a temporary halt on all new HEP projects, and had asked the government to examine the feasibility of the HEP’s and submit its recommendations.

The next hearing of the Supreme Court on the issue is scheduled for January 20. Shekhar has been given a month’s time to complete his recommendations so that the government can take a final decision and convey it to the Supreme Court on January 20.

(Photo: www.gangarights.org)

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi Stresses Cooperative Federalism for Ganga Rejuvenation

The meeting was attended by Union Ministers for Jal Shakti, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, Urban Affairs, Power, Tourism, Shipping, and the Chief Ministers of UP and Uttarakhand, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, the Vice-Chairman of the Niti Aayog and other senior officials

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the River Ganga rejuvenation should be an example of cooperative federalism and it has been a long-pending challenge.

The Prime Minister made this observation at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Kanpur, UP, on Saturday. The meeting was aimed at reinforcing the importance of a Ganga-centric approach in all departments of the states concerned as well as relevant central ministries.

He also asked for formation of a digital dashboard where data from villages and urban bodies would be monitored on a daily basis by the Niti Ayog and the Ministry of Jal Shakti. All districts bordering Ganga should be made a focus area for monitoring efforts under the Namami Gange project, he said.

Modi said a lot had been accomplished since the government took up ‘Namami Gange’ in 2014 as a comprehensive initiative, integrating various government efforts and activities, with the aim of reducing pollution, and conservation and rejuvenation of Ganga.

Notable achievements had been zero waste creation by paper mills and reduction in pollution from tanneries, he said and added, but a lot was required to be done.

River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.
River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river. Wikimedia Commons

The Prime Minister emphasised that improvement would require full cooperation from the public at large and greater awareness through dissemination of best practices from cities situated along the banks of national rivers.

“For the first time, the central government has made a commitment of Rs 20,000 crore for 2015-20 to the five states through which Ganga passes, to ensure adequate as well as uninterrupted water flow. Rs 7,700 crore has been spent, prominently for construction of new sewage treatment plants,” said a government statement.

Prime Minister also urged for a holistic thinking process where ‘Namami Gange’ would evolved into ‘Arth Ganga’ or a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to Ganga.

Also Read: Chinese Scientists Reveal Distribution History of Endangered Trees

“As part of this process, farmers should be encouraged to engage in sustainable agriculture practices, including zero budget farming, planting of fruit trees and building plant nurseries along the banks of Ganga. Priority could be given to women self-help groups and ex-servicemen organisations for these programmes,” it added.

The meeting discussed tapping the hybrid tourism potential of the river basin area for religious and adventure tourism. “The income generated from encouraging eco-tourism and Ganga wildlife conservation and cruise tourism would help generate sustainable income streams for cleaning of Ganga,” the government said.

The meeting was attended by Union Ministers for Jal Shakti, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, Urban Affairs, Power, Tourism, Shipping, and the Chief Ministers of UP and Uttarakhand, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, the Vice-Chairman of the Niti Aayog and other senior officials. (IANS)