Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck an emotional chord with Indian voters when he vowed to save the Ganga. "It’s my destiny to serve Maa Ganga," he said while filing nomination papers from Varanasi in 2014.
Subsequently, the government launched the Namami Gange project and allocated Rs 20,000 crore as its budget for five years.
But data from the Ministry of Water Resources shows dangerously slow progress for the project. How much of, and to what effect, has this money been spent in almost 3 years? Here’s a status check.
Has the Rs 20,000 Crore Budget Lightened?
The answer is no.
Of the Rs 20,000 crore approved, only Rs 3,633 crore has been allocated, of which only Rs 1,836 crore has been spent from 2014 to 2017.
Free-Flowing Filth Each Day
The Ganga supports more than 500 million people, approximately 40 percent of the country’s population. It is home to over 150 species of fish and over 300 species of birds. Not to mention a few lakh people who rely on it for spiritual sustenance.
In spite of such overwhelming significance, it is startling to see how much wastewater is allowed to flow into the Ganga everyday.
After the Uttarakhand High Court's ruling, the Ganga might have acquired the legal rights of a person, but it has since been subjected to constant choking. Namami Gange has taken notice of the wastewater menace and has set up sewerage treatment plants as one of its core works.
However, as of now, we are far from adequate capacity.
Dr Suresh Rohilla, Programme Director, Urban Water Management, Center of Science and Environment said 7,500 million litres of wastewater is entering the Ganga now. He also said the little treatment that is happening isn’t sustainable. "Money spent on setting up sewerage treatment plants has gone down the drain as there is no re-use plan," he said. Even government bodies recognise the need for more.
Installed sewage treatment facilities are inadequate. Significant quantity of sewage still being disposed into river Ganga.Central Pollution Control Board, June 2016
What Catches the Eye
Removing floating dirt from the Ganga's surface has been included as an 'entry-level activity' for 'immediate-visible impact' under the programme.
This floating waste includes shoes, clothes, spit, plastic, animal carcasses, etc. Not only carcasses, but also human corpses are set afloat on the Ganga everyday.
In spite of all this filth, the piety of the average Indian towards the 'Ganga Maa' can't be questioned. The young and old are seemingly oblivious to the confluence of filth, and maintain their religious fervor with a dip in the neglected river.
Three years down the line, the project is evidently far behind schedule. The government began with a vision in 2014 to spend Rs 20,000 crore over 5 years on the Ganga’s revival, now it really needs to step up its game.
Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Animation and video editor: Puneet Bhatia
(This story was first published on 25 April 2017. It was republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the completion of three years of the Narendra Modi-led government in May 2017.)