New Delhi: Demanding strong measures from the government for a pollution free river Ganga, activists along with Hindu seers on Monday staged a protest march from Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Rajghat to Jantar Mantar.
The activists crusading for getting Ganga cleaned demand ban on building of dams across the river and want the government to take strong action to restore purity of the river, which was ranked among the five most polluted rivers of the world in 2007.
However, rejecting their demands categorically, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna today announced that there will be no ban on dams or power projects across the river. He also said that in case of any interference, the Central government would have to compensate for the losses incurred.
Reacting angrily to Uttarakhand CM’s decision, the noted water conservationist Rajendra Singh, who was protesting along with others at Jantar Mantar, said, “It’s not his (Vijay Bahuguna’s) Ganga. Ganga is the river of entire nation. It’s our Ganga and we will take care of its purity and cleanliness.”
Earlier Singh had threatened a nationwide campaign against the Congress-led government for failing to implement the promises made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that all possible steps would be taken to clean the river.
He had said that the campaign would not end until the central government immediately stalled the proposed building of 39 dams across River Ganga.
Magsaysay award-winner ‘Waterman', Rajendra Singh who had stepped down from the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) along with two others in protest against the Government's “negligence” of the river.
NGRBA was built in Feb 2009 and in spite of millions of rupees spent on it, it failed to implement any reforms that could bring the sacred river back to its pristine glory and the Ganga flows replete with pollution, with fecal coliform levels in the river near Varanasi more than hundred times the official Indian government limits.
The government had also launched a mega scheme named Ganga Action Plan during mid-80’s, but it’s been more than two decades and in spite of billions of rupees having been invested, there has been no results on the ground.
The government had also approved a $1 billion loan from the World Bank last year, to fund an eight-year project to clean the river.
Earlier in April at the third meeting of NGRBA, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself voiced concern over the discharge of 2,900 million litres of sewage in the Ganga every day.
The World Bank estimates that the health costs of water pollution in India equal three per cent of India's GDP.
Apart from the shrinking river, the accumulation of silt deposit and garbage along the banks has worried the environmentalists.
The rising pollution in the river has concerned many as it is the lifeline for over 400 million Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs.
The major problem faced by India's prime rivers is that over 90 percent of their water has been used by hydroelectric projects and, barrages besides plethora of unlawful activities like quarrying for sand from the banks leading to erosion.
The agitation by Hindu seers for an 'aviral' Ganga could hit a higher pitch ahead of the Mahakumbh in Allahabad in January.
First Published: Monday, June 18, 2012, 16:05