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India: The Union Minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawa thas said that there has been a massive improvement in the Clean Ganga Mission during the last five years.

“Recently, a massive river rafting expedition called ‘Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan’ was launched from Devprayag on 10th October 2019. The expedition covered around 2,500 km length of the Ganga during its 34-day journey till Ganga Sagar in West Bengal. The quality of water in the Ganga has improved tremendously in the last five years. The best parameter for assessing the quality improvement of water is the growth in aquatic wildlife. Five years earlier, only tens of Gangetic dolphins were sighted, but this time they have observed more than 2,000 dolphins and all other aquatic life has improved. They have also observed massive improvement in floating trash,” he said, addressing the 4th India Water Impact Summit, 2019 in Delhi earlier this month.

Mr. Shekhawat said that the union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for the establishment of the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF). Appealing for liberal contributions, Mr. Shekhawat said, “The CGF will have the objective of contributing to the national effort of improving the cleanliness of the river Ganga with the contributions received from the residents and non-residents of the country. The fund will define specific and measurable objectives to form the basis for planning, funding, and evaluation”.

The Jal Shakti Minister said that the approach in Namami Gange for ensuring Aviral Dhara or improving flows is comprehensive. “It includes assessment and notification of environmental flows, catchment area treatment & afforestation, conservation and rejuvenation of wetlands, floodplain protection, springs rejuvenation, improving water use efficiency particularly in agriculture, because agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in the world and in India it is more severe as our waters are considered the lowest productive water in the world”.

Mr. Shekhawat said that the Indian government launched the “Namami Gange” mission as an integrated mission for conservation and rejuvenation of Ganga and its tributaries with a comprehensive basin based approach.

“In 2016, the National Mission for Clean Ganga has been notified as an authority for carrying out a diverse set of interventions for obtaining the twin goals of “Nirmalta” and “Aviralta” of Ganga by ensuring effective abatement of pollution and maintaining required ecological flows. Around 305 projects have been taken up for sewage, industrial effluents, etc. This has further been strengthened and accorded due priority under Jal Shakti Abhiyan and an integrated approach to the water sector through the creation of Ministry for Jal Shakti”, he said. “Namami Gange mission also understands the crucial role people can play in the conservation of river Ganga and has been taking up several innovative steps for bringing people closer to river Ganga and its tributaries which contribute in one way or the other for their rejuvenation”, he added.

Mr. Shekhawat lauded the role of academic institutions including IITs, NITs, NEERI, etc from India and the European Union, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Japan, and Canada for technology collaboration agreements with c-Ganga (Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies). “We have technologies in the field of artificial intelligence, containerized sewage treatment technologies, plastic pollution management, waste trading platform, bioremediation and aquaponics, membrane-based farming system, water tracking & management system, distillery waste to biofuel, advanced anaerobic digestion technology, and UV water treatment, etc”, he said.

Stressing on the Environment Flow and Urban River Management Plan, Mr. Shekhawat said that under the first draft of the Ganga River Basin Management Plan (GRBMP) submitted by a consortium of IITs in 2015, projects for liquid pollution abatement in Ganga river basin have already been sanctioned and are at various stages of implementation and more of such projects will come for the tributaries for the Ganga rivers as well.

“The Government of India – vide Notification dated 9th October 2018 – has notified minimum environmental flows to be maintained in river Ganga from its origin to Unnao in U.P. We have recently started a pilot project to develop the Urban River Management Plan with NIUA”, said Mr. Shekhawat. “These are probably the two areas wherein there is a scope of experience sharing with the global experts. We are working to have integrated water management wherein mainstream health of the rivers and water bodies should become an important part of urban planning”, he added.

Pointing out that the cleaning of rivers including Ganga is a perpetual process and it will always require dedicated service of the people to maintain its healthy state, Mr. Shekhawat advocated integrated water management, preventing degradation and pollution of rivers, lakes & aquifers, promoting recycle and reuse of treated wastewater and where necessary, restore and maintain acceptable environmental conditions and water quality.

Stating that India holds only about 4% of global freshwater compared to around 18% of its population and an equivalent percentage of livestock population, Mr. Shekhawat said India’s urban population is growing at a fast pace. “As per Census 2011, around 377 million people are living in urban areas. By 2030, urban India is likely to have about 600 million people. This burdens the natural resources like water bodies and rivers tremendously”, he said.

In his address, Secretary, Department of Water Resource, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (WR, RD & GR), U.P. Singh, said the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), will be completed within the stipulated five year period by 2024. “In a history of projects marred by long delays sometimes pending since 2010, for the first time a 14 MLD Sewage Treatment Plant, the first STP under the Hybrid Annuity (HAM) Based Public-Private Partnership Model costing Rs. 41.40 crores, has been completed ahead of schedule”, he said.

Citing the success of the green revolution, UP Singh said that India today is placed 3rd among countries with the highest number of large dams. Calling for sustainable water resource management including restoring groundwater levels, Mr. Singh said that we should avoid over-exploitation of our limited water resources.

Pointing out that India is dependent upon the Monsoon for 70-75% of its water needs, Mr. UP Singh said that there has been a perceptible change in the monsoon pattern, with variations in rainfall area and timeline, as part of overall climate change. “Areas prone to floods like eastern UP and Bihar states are witnessing droughts while dry parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat have been hit by floods. At the same time, monsoon used to hit Kerala by May last week, but now monsoon hits Kerala coast only as late as June 2nd week”, he said.

On the occasion, Mr. Shekhawat released the Report on Ambassadors’ Meet held on 22nd August 2019, Report on River Restoration and Conservation – A Concise Manual and Guide, and Documents on “cGanga Hubs”.

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