Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan
Singh chaired the meeting of National Ganga River Basin Authority in New Delhi
today. Following is the text of Prime Minister’s opening remarks:
am happy to be present here today at
the 3rd meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority. I extend a very
warm welcome to you all.
The National Ganga River
Basin Authority was set up as a high level body that would give focussed
attention to fulfilling our sacred and solemn duty to restore the pristine
glory of the Ganga and preserve its riches for future generations. The Centre, the Ganga basin States, civil
society and industry should work together to make a success of this important
We should remember that our efforts in the past have not
been very successful. Therefore, we must together show a renewed and sincere
commitment in both thought and action to make a definite change in the
We must find the right balance between the need for
environmental and ecological conservation of the Ganga and its basin on the one
hand and the imperatives of growth and development on the other.
I commit the Government of India to work purposefully in
this direction as a top priority.
Increasing urbanisation, industrialisation and population
are not only polluting the Ganga waters, but also threatening its ecological
and hydrological viability. Added to
this are the spectre of climate change and melting of glaciers that are also
likely to affect the flows of the river adversely.
The task before us is therefore a highly complex one. We
will have to pool our intellectual and physical resources in a coordinated and
coherent manner if we are to rise to this challenge.
Time is not on our side and we have to act quickly. At the same time, whatever we do should not
be piecemeal, should meet the test of scientific reasoning and be a rational
and practical approach that addresses the views and concerns of all
In order to formulate long term policies and actions, the
Ministry of Environment and Forests commissioned a consortium of seven IITs to
prepare a comprehensive River Basin Management Plan for the Ganga. This Plan
would recommend comprehensive measures to restore and maintain the ecological
health of the river giving due regard to the competing water uses and the
necessity of a paradigm shift in the manner in which we exploit land, water and
other natural resources in the Ganga basin.
This Plan will be the basis for the NGRBAs long term
Action Plan to deal with the multiple challenges we face in the task of
cleaning the Ganga and maintaining its flows.
The consortium has already submitted five initial reports. I urge them
to carry on their work expeditiously and with due diligence.
While we await this comprehensive study and plan of
action, we should take certain urgent measures that are required anyway or
which would be difficult to take later on.
First is on the issue of untreated sewage. Every day about 2,900 million litres of sewage is
discharged into the main stream of the river Ganga from municipal towns located
along its banks. The existing infrastructure has a capacity to treat only 1,100
million litres per day, leaving a huge deficit.
is adequate funding available to create additional treatment facilities under
the National Mission Clean Ganga. I would urge the States to send appropriate
proposals for new projects.
performance of the States with regard to the operation and maintenance of the existing sewage treatment plants has
been tardy. There is under-utilisation
of this infrastructure, particularly in the absence of connecting sewerage
networks such as branch sewers and house sewer connections. The Central
government is examining some easing of the funding norms for O&M works.
The second issue is with regard to industrial
pollution. Though they are only 20% of the total volume of effluents,
industrial effluents are a cause for major concern because they are toxic and
Most of the waste water comes from tanneries,
distilleries, paper mills and sugar mills along the banks of the Ganga. The
State Pollution Control Boards are required to monitor compliance of effluent
discharge standards by such industries.
Action must be taken against the defaulting
industries by the State Boards under the powers delegated to them by the
Central Government. I would request the State Governments to strengthen the
relevant enforcement mechanisms.
I would request the Chief Ministers to make an
assessment of the situation with regard to both untreated sewage and industrial
pollution and present a report to the NRGBA on the situation in their
respective States. We can then decide what concrete steps are necessary to
attend to some of the institutional, administrative and financial problems that
may be coming in the way of more effective implementation of pollution control
and abatement measures. Many of the things that we could do are self evident
and do not require detailed scientific studies. States should earmark adequate
resources and give priority to capacity building of urban local bodies.
I urge all the concerned State Governments to make
full use of the resources that are available with the NRGBA. Projects with an
outlay of more than Rs. 2600 crore have been sanctioned so far under the NGRBA
in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal for creating
sewer networks, sewage treatment plants,
sewage pumping stations, electric crematoria, community toilets and development of river fronts.
A third area that warrants immediate action and
attention is the need to maintain the ecological flow of the Ganga, starting
with the upper reaches of the river.
This must necessarily involve a number of steps. State Governments and urban local bodies
should promote water conservation and recycling of treated waste water. There is a need to promote efficient
irrigation practices as a large amount of water from the Ganga is drawn through
the canal systems in the upper reaches for agricultural use. There is also the complex problem of tackling
water use by hydel projects in the upper reaches.
The Government of India had commissioned a study
conducted by IIT Roorkee on the assessment of cumulative impact of hydropower
projects in Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins up to Devprayag. Separately, the Wildlife Institute of India
had also made an assessment of cumulative impact of hydroelectric projects on
aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins in
Uttarakhand. These studies had worked out certain desirable ecological flows.
The IIT Roorkee report stated that the environmental flow requirement or EFR
depends on the stage of development of the area and the societal
requirement. The same report
recommended that exact values of EFR for every single project for
implementation should be established after carrying out detailed measurements
of discharge, river cross sections and assessment of impact on biotic life as a
result of reduced discharge on commissioned hydropower projects and
consultation with the local community.
The issue of environmental flow requirement as
studied and recommended by the IIT Roorkee Committee as well as the minimum
flow required to sustain riverine ecology recommended by the Wildlife Institute
of India, should be examined by a multi-disciplinary group, including the
concerned State Governments. The group
should look holistically at the various options available and recommend broad
principles and actions that need to be taken with regard to conservation,
irrigation use and running of hydel projects that will ensure uninterrupted
flow of the river Ganga. Based on the
recommendations of the group, we will draw up and implement a road map for
further actions that we need to take.
should use the IIT Roorkee and Wildlife Institute of India studies to guide
what actions we need to take pending formulation of a long term policy.
look forward to a constructive and purposeful discussion. Thank you.”