NEW DELHI: Union minister Rattan Lal Kataria on Thursday said lakhs of animals are dying due to plastic and the government has taken a serious note of it.
He said the entire country will become open defecation-free by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to launch a nationwide campaign against single-use plastic on the occasion.
"I was with the prime minister in Mathura on Wednesday. Lakhs of animals are dying there due to plastic. The government has taken a serious note of it and steps will be taken in that direction," he said on the sidelines of an event.
The prime minister, who is leading efforts to scrap single-use plastic by 2022, is likely to announce a ban on a few items on October 2.
Modi, in his Independence Day speech, had urged people to avoid using plastic bags, and technicians and entrepreneurs to look at innovative ways to recycle plastic.
Kataria, the Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti, said before the Modi government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission "maybe I was also not that aware" about the need of cleanliness.
"Maybe, sometimes even I also throw pieces of paper around in my house.
But this campaign has made people aware.
When an MLA known to me was having a banana inside his car, his granddaughter told him not to throw the peel on the road, saying 'Modi dekh raha hai'," he said.
The government is now committed to providing piped water to 17 crore families across the country by 2024, the minister said.
"At present, only 3. 5 crore households have piped water supply. We are working on a mission mode. I have also met people who have started saving water on shaving," he said.
Kataria also said the government will create 1.11 crore water harvesting points across the country to store rainwater.
"We have sent teams of scientists to aspirational districts and identified 1,500 blocks where the groundwater table has depleted. We have sent joint secretary-level officers to 'semi critical' districts. They are soon going to submit their reports and accordingly, the future course of action will be decided," he said.
Asked about the use solar pumps in agriculture leading to a fear of groundwater exploitation, the minister said, "We want that before going ahead with solar pump schemes, the government should consult our department".
On the river-interlinking project, he said the government has identified 30 rivers and received all feasibility reports.
"Detailed project reports are ready for interlinking of four rivers. The Ken-Betwa link project is in advanced stage," Kataria said.