India to borrow one billion dollars from World Bank to clean up Ganges

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New Delhi, Dec.3 (ANI): India is expected to receive a World Bank loan of a billion dollars for cleaning and conserving the River Ganga.

Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh revealed this after a meeting with World Bank president Robert B Zoellick here on Wednesday.

A joint statement issued later said the bank will also help India access four billion dollars in funds for stopping dumping of untreated waste into the Ganges.

"As of now we are looking at borrowing a billion dollars from the World Bank. The total estimated cost of this mission is about four billion dollars," said Ramesh.

The 2,510-kilometre-long river that runs from a glacier in the western Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh supports over 400 million of India's 1.1 billion populations.

The Indian government has estimated that it will require an initial investment of four billion dollars in the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to achieve its immediate objective of stopping all discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluent into the Ganga by 2020.

"We know there have been efforts to clean up the river before. The bank has been part of them. In the past, focused too much on individual aspects such as sewage immersions... in the basin as a whole. So what really distinguishes this project is to try to look at all the river networks and try to do with all the aspects," said Zoellick.

Sewage and industrial effluents pour into much of the River Ganga's course through India's most populated states, reducing its capacity to support life and making it unfit for human or animal use. Floating corpses are a common sight, as Hindus believe cremation on the river banks leads to salvation.

The government has planned to end discharge of untreated waste into the Ganges by 2020.

Though the federal government set up Ganga Action Plan in 1985 to clean the river, much of the action seems to have confined to paper.

However, with one billion tonnes of waste being dumped into it everyday, the River Ganga, unfortunately, remains one of the most polluted rivers in the world. (ANI)

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