NEW DELHI: Almost a year after the proposal to raise four battalions of an Eco Task Force for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet ‘Clean Ganga’ campaign was made, the Ministry of Defence has yet to give its clearance to the Indian army to set up the force.
Last December, the Indian army had moved a proposal to raise four battalions of its Territorial Army named the Ganga Task Force. But the proposal is shuffling between the Ministry of Defence and the National Mission for Clean Ganga, which comes under the Ministry of Water Resources. “The Army is waiting for a nod from the government... After raising the battalions, these personnel need to be trained to handle complex water purifying plants,” said a source.
The battalions (one battalion has 1,000 men) will work under the directions of the Ministry of Water Resources. According to sources, the specially-trained engineers, environmentalists and scientists will form part of the battalions apart from skilled manpower. The Water Resources Ministry will provide funds and equipment like desalination plants and sewage treatment units to these battalions. They will also help in soil treatment along the banks of the Ganga to enhance fertility of land for agricultural purposes.
The Task Force will be responsible for planting of trees, strengthening of pollution monitoring mechanism and watch and ward for protection of bio-diversity.
According to officials privy to the development, the Eco Task Force of army’s retired officers and personnel will be deployed in all 54 districts of Ganga basin. It is also a move to generate employment opportunities for army personnel post-retirement.
The Territorial Army has expertise in improving the environment as it has eight specialised battalions known as Ecological Battalions engaged in the task. The Army claims that these units have done exceptionally well in turning the barren Aravali Hills around Delhi green. Many arid zones in Rajasthan now have forest cover due these battalions.
The Centre has prepared a plan spanning 18 years to clean the river with the Cabinet approving Rs 20,000 crore for the next five years for the mission.