The cleaning of the Ganga was one of the major poll promises the BJP made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. On April 24, 2014, the day Narendra Modi filed his nomination papers in Varanasi, the-then PM candidate had said, “I don't think anyone has sent me here, or I have come here. I feel Mother Ganga has called me to Varanasi.”
On the same day, Modi wrote in his blog about how he had “transformed” Sabarmati as the chief minister of Gujarat and how, “With the blessings of Baba Bholenath, this is what we intend to replicate in Varanasi.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had performed a Ganga aarti at Varanasi soon after the BJP came to power in 2014. (Photo: PTI/file)
After the BJP came to power, the Modi government’s much-hyped “Namami Gange” project was launched in Uttarakhand in 2014.
India Today has been keeping track of the work done by the government on this promise. In July, our report, based on a RTI response from the government, showed that the pollution levels of the Ganga at Varanasi’s ghats were higher than the levels recorded back in 2014, before Namami Gange was launched.
To know more about it, we filed another RTI with the National Mission for the Clean Ganga. The focus of our questions was the new projects started to clean the river, the money allocated to them, their completion date and their likely impact. The government’s first response was to tell us that this information was available on its website.
The response India Today received to its RTI query.
When we filed an appeal, the Government of India said, “A total of Rs 20,000 crore has been allocated for this project, to be spent over the next five years (2020)”. It further said: “till date, under Namami Gange programme, a total 221 projects have been sanctioned for various activities such as treatment of municipal sewage, treatment of industrial effluent, river surface cleaning etc., at a total cost of Rs 22,238.73 crores, out of which 58 projects have been completed”.
This suggests that an additional Rs 2,238.73 crore has been allocated, with a year and a half to go. The government also admits that so far, only 26 per cent of the sanctioned projects have been completed.
Talking about sewage treatment plants, the RTI response says: “Till date, a total 105 sewerage infrastructures and STP projects have been sanctioned, which will prevent 3293.68 MLD of untreated sewage discharging directly into river Ganga. Total 26 projects have been completed so far”.
Here too, only around 25 per cent of the sanctioned projects have been completed. The government further says that “the projects taken up so far will take care of all the interventions required in respect of sewage treatment requirement till year 2035 on the main stem of river Ganga”.
In May this year, Union water resources minister Nitin Gadkari set March 2019 as the new deadline to clean up the Ganga, and ensure a “70 to 80 per cent” improvement in its water quality. With just one-fourth of the sanctioned projects completed so far, how does the government plan to achieve a miracle in the next 6-7 months?
Going by the government’s own status report, it looks very unlikely that it will be able to fulfil its promise.