Countries Ride Ganga Wave to Cleanse the River
NEW DELHI: Foreign countries are making a beeline for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi to participate in the Clean Ganga Mission in the holy city. Among the contenders to clean the river are Japan, Germany, Australia and Israel.
Germany, which initially wanted to clean the Ganga at Varanasi, seems to have now agreed to carry out the drive at Kanpur, Patna and Kolkata. An MoU in this regard is expected to be signed during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s India visit from October 4-6.
Earlier this year, Germany decided to provide three million Euros to support the Ganga rejuvenation plan and develop the river. Germany is known for cleaning the river Rhine, which was once Europe’s most polluted waterway. It will share its experience and expertise in the Clean Ganga Mission.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has identified 11 major towns along the Ganga’s course for cleaning up ghats. These include Rishikesh, Hardwar, Garhmukteshwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Sahibganj, Kolkata and Nabadweep.
“Many foreign countries have shown an interest in the massive Ganga cleaning and rejuvenation programme announced by the government. Most have shown interest in Varanasi, but Japan has already signed an agreement for the holy city,” said a senior NMCG official.
He added that countries have been informed that the Ganga also needs cleaning at other cities. “Ganga cannot be clean until unless pollution is controlled from its origin to its end. There are many heavily polluted cities along its course. Germany was also interested in partnering for Varanasi, but after discussions, they seem agreeable to taking up the work in Kanpur, Patna and Kolkata,” he said.
The prime minister’s ‘Namami Gange’ programme has many takers. During Modi’s Japan trip in 2014, both countries signed a deal partnering Japan’s old imperial capital Kyoto with Varanasi. The deal provides for all-round cooperation in heritage conservation, Ganga rejuvenation, city modernisation and cooperation in art, culture and academics.
India’s key defence partner Israel has also offered to provide water treatment and management technology to India, and sent a delegation in August. Israel is one of the pioneers in water treatment technology.
Australia has promised its full support to the Ganga rejuvenation plan. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop had met Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti, in April. The country will extend technological support for the Clean Ganga Mission and has developed a scorecard to measure and control effluent discharge into rivers, which can be used by India.
“A lot of companies are sending proposals for technology and cooperation, but we are treading cautiously to ensure that the best and economical technology is available to India,” said an official of the Ministry of Water Resources.
The Central government has prepared a three phase—short term, mid-term and long term—plan spanning 18 years to clean the river, which includes ensuring 100 per cent sewage infrastructure in 118 cities along the Ganga basin at a cost of Rs 51,000 crore, industrial pollution abatement and sand mining guidelines, among others.
The Union Cabinet has approved Rs 20,000 crore for the next five years for the mission, which integrates efforts to clean and protect the Ganga in a comprehensive manner. This is a five-fold increase on the expenditure in the past 30 years, as previous governments spent Rs 4,000 crore on this task since 1985.