By adding “Ganga rejuvenation” to the nomenclature of the water resources ministry and putting it under the charge of activist-turned-minister Uma Bharati, prime minister Narendra Modi has displayed a sense of commitment to fulfilling the promise he made during his pre-poll and post-victory rallies. However, the task remains too formidable. Despite spending over `20,000 crore on the Ganga Action Plan, the water of the country’s longest river—it is 2,525km in length—is dirtier and its flow has been severely curtailed owing to the construction of barrages and diversion of water through canals.
The key to cleansing the Ganga, therefore, lies not so much in cosmetic treatment as in taking concrete measures to avert further degradation of water and push cleaner water into the river. The first step will be to dump the earlier bureaucratic approach which meant that officials came and went according to their service schedules and rarely had any time or the sense of dedication to perform their duties. Yet, considering that the river supports 29 Class I cities, 23 Class II cities and 48 towns, not to mention thousands of villages, the task of keeping its water free of pollution is a gargantuan one.
It is a good sign that several corporate houses have expressed their desire to help the government since they can not only provide some of the funds, but also the kind of personnel who will not look upon their postings as a routine one. Considering that inadequate investment has been noted by the government as one of the reasons for the slow progress of the action plan, the need for procuring resources from wherever possible is obvious. The extra effort is unavoidable because all the sewage, industrial effluents, the run-off from the chemical fertilisers and pesticides used in the agricultural fields and large quantities of solid waste, including thousands of animal carcasses and human corpses, find their last resting place in the river. Saving it brooks no further delay.