New Delhi, May 13: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet Ganga cleaning and protection programme was cleared on Wednesday and given a whopping Rs 20,000 crore budget, a four-fold increase over the money spent in the last three decades for the river's conservation.
"The Union Cabinet, chaired by Modi today approved the flagship 'Namami Gange' Program which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river in a comprehensive manner," a government statement said.
The program has a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for the next 5 years which was a significant four-fold increase over the expenditure in the past 30 years, it said, noting that the Centre incurred an overall expenditure of approximately Rs 4000 crore on this task since 1985.
In 1986, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had launched the 'Ganga Action Plan', a Rs 462-crore project, with main objective of pollution abatement and to improve the water quality.
However, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the country in which level of pollutants is more than 3000 times than the permissible limit defined by the WHO as "safe".
The statement, after the Cabinet meeting, said in order to push the efforts for the Ganga's clean-up, the Centre will now take over 100 per cent funding of various activities/projects under this programme.
Marking a major shift in implementation, the government is focusing on involving people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
"Drawing from past lessons, the programme also focuses on involving the states and grassroots-level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions for its implementation," it said.
The programme would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organisations, that is, the State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs).
NMCG will also establish field offices wherever necessary, the statement added.
A three-tier mechanism has been proposed for monitoring projects, comprising a task force chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and assisted by NMCG at the national level, state- level committees chaired by Chief Secretary and assisted by SPMG and district-level committees chaired by the District Magistrate.
Taking a leaf out of the "unsatisfactory" results of the earlier Ganga Action Plans, the Centre now plans to provide for operation and maintenance of the assets for a minimum 10 year period, and adopt a PPP/SPV approach for pollution hotspots.
In an attempt to bolster enforcement the Centre also plans to establish a 4-battalion Ganga Eco-Task Force, a Territorial Army unit, apart from contemplating on a legislation that aims to check pollution and protect the river.