The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR-RDGR) has adopted a range of initiatives to provide a boost to the “Namami Gange” programme, under the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), conceived to clean the Ganga. With a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore, the NMCG or the Namami Gange project is an integrated programme involving different ministries, people living on the banks of the river, urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions, and attempts to clean the Ganga. The Centre intends to form a targeted policy for the NMCG, and for the first time, it has shifted its focus to the improvement of the data gathering process. The Centre has approached the Survey of India, one of the oldest organisations working under the Department of Science & Technology, for its help in using the Geographic Information System (GIS). A new deadline which ends in December 2019 for the cleaning of the Ganga, has been set by the MoWR-RDGR. The ministry is headed by Nitin Gadkari.
A senior MoWR-RDGR official told The Sunday Guardian: “The Ministry has shifted its focus towards strengthening of the data gathering system. The GIS project will map sewage and industrial, commercial and other discharges from all units sources in the Ganga. The GIS technology will help in monitoring of polluting sources and will speed up the process of taking appropriate action.The use of GIS technology for the NMCG will ensure the decentralisation of data and it can be shared with the local public through geo portals and mobile applications. The GIS will also enable the general public to send their feedback up to the national level. Strengthening of the data gathering project with an estimated Rs 86.84 crore has been approved in the Executive Council (EC) meeting held earlier this month.” According to the MoWR-RDGR, the data gathering project also includes the use of Digital Elevation Model (DEM) technology which ensures accurate data collection, an important aspect for river basin management planning. “The DEM technology enables identification of the entire topography of an area, making it easy for policymakers to analyse the available data, thereby supporting the decision-making process. The critical hotspots will be easily identified through this technology,” the same official cited above said. Besides focusing on data gathering programmes, the National Mission for Clean Ganga has also approved several projects that will strengthen the existing State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs). “NMCG has approved a Rs 85 crore project to strengthen State Pollution Control Boards of five main stem Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, so that they can frequently verify the quality of water in river Ganga. In case of any discrepancy, appropriate action could be taken,” a statement of the MoWR-RDGR reads. “The laboratories will be equipped in terms of advanced instruments and equipment with well-trained scientific personnel to carry out pollution assessment and water quality monitoring activities in respect of existing and emerging pollutants. Also, in West Bengal, two projects worth Rs 358.43 crore have been approved to develop sewerage infrastructure in Hooghly-Chinsurah and Maheshtala. These two projects together will stop nearly 56 MLD sewage water from directly merging into river Ganga,” the statement reads. Ganga, the largest river basin in India that covers a little more than a quarter of the country’s landmass and supports almost 43% of its population, is facing existential crisis.