Tough task for Modi Government: 15 lakh homes along banks of Ganga lack toilets

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A devotee takes dip in Ganga river at Allahabad.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his maiden budget has announced an integrated the Ganga development programme called the 'Namami Gange' and allocated Rs 2,037 crore for this purpose. But, the Narendra Modi-led Government's most ambitious project is facing major hurdles to rejuvenate country's most sacred river.

As per a Pioneer report, the team constituted for this purpose under a dedicated Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry, headed by Uma Bharti, has found out that nearly 15 lakh households, 600 schools and 6,000 anganwadis spread across 1,500 gram panchayats in 220 blocks of 46 districts situated along the banks of the holy river in four States have no toilet facilities and community sanitary complexes. Defecation is the major cause of pollution in the river. So, first of all, a proper drainage system and an efficient waste disposal system must be developed.

By December this year, the Government has prepared a time-bound draft action plan envisaging toilet facilities in at least half of the households along the river stretch. The Government has set a December 2014 deadline to install toilets in all these schools and anganwadis.

Projects so far yielded no results, due to poor implementation

Reports further state that a fresh baseline survey is currently on in the river-basin States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal to identify more such households by July 15. The concerned ministry has in the meantime asked all the four States to make the area within 15 metres of the high flood level of the 1,500-mile-long sacred river and its tributaries ‘open-defecation free'.

In its next move the team is asked to identify more such sensitive households lying along its stretch.

The Ganga Action Plan, which was launched in 1984 to clean the river, yielded little or no desirable results due to the UPA Government's non-implementation of schemes.

But open defecation along the river plains is not the only cause for contaminating the water and depriving the Ganga of its purity. The depleting industrial effluent standards are also responsible for making the river a pool of diseases. Rules and regulations were not enforced correctly as the State Pollution Control Boards had neither proper technical nor human resources. The Ministry and its team would also have to take this matter seriously too.

The ambitious Rs 4,200 crore 'Jal Marg Vikas' project on the Ganga from Allahabad to Haldia, over a distance of 1,620 km, will certainly boost the inland water transport, which hasn't been utilised yet. But ample care needs to be taken while implementation of this project as it might not end up polluting the river further. The Government will surely face a tough task to keep a check over it.

Thus, targets for first action plan are already being set, but it will be interesting to see how this government delivers on this front. Governments prior to Modi have also set up teams and allocated budgets for both cleaning Ganga and tackling the problem of sewage treatment. But nothing substantial has happened so far else the divine river, which according to the Hindu mythology was incarnated as ‘a boon for mankind' and wash away its sin, would not have turned a dead river.

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