Taking strong objection to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s remarks that the entire Ganga river will be cleaned by March 2020, renowned water conservationist Rajendra Singh has dared the Modi government minister to opt for “Ganga samadhi” if he failed to meet his promise.
“They have been lying since 2014. First, Narendra Modi lied at the time of previous Lok Sabha elections for the purpose of seeking votes. Then, drinking water and sanitation minister Uma Bharti lied about the success of Namami Gange Mission at the time of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in February 2017,” Singh, who has been campaigning for a clean Ganga river, tells National Herald.
“And now, Gadkari is lying. Will he take Jal samadhi if Ganga is not 100 per cent clean by March 2020,” asked Singh, who is fondly known as the “Waterman of India” for his efforts in cleaning up the holy river. Singh wryly remarked that Uma Bharti was yet to take jal samadhi for not being able to keep her promise in 2017, which she had vowed back then.
The sharp reaction from Singh, a recipient of Stockholm Water Prize, came after Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari’s comments on the river on Monday.
“If I had not made Allahabad-Varanasi waterway, how could she (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) have travelled? She also drank Ganga water, could she have done the same under the UPA govt? By March 2020, river Ganga will be 100% per cent clean,” said Gadkari, as per news agency ANI.
While the government has been making tall claims about the success of the Namami Gange Mission, a flagship programme of the Modi government, the reality is entirely different.
Also read: Namami Gange: Why it is a failure
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in response to an RTI application in October last year, revealed that the 2,525-km long river was more polluted in 2018 than it was in 2013, with reduced levels of dissolved oxygen.
The BOD (biochemical oxygen demand, or the amount of oxygen needed in the river to break down non-essential organic material) in Ganga was more than 3 mg/litre at 36 of the 80 sites and 2-3 mg/litre at another 30. In 2013, it was more than 3 mg/litre at 31 sites and 2-3 mg/l at 24, as per CPCB figures in 2017. A higher BOD level is indicative of higher contamination in the river. The BOD level in a clean river should be less than 3 mg/litre.
The Rs 20,000-crore Namami Gange Mission has often come under criticism for taking the wrong approach to clean up the river, focussing more on the aesthetics and sewage treatment than ensuring the aviral dhara (uninterrupted flow).
“The Ganga, if it is allowed to flow interrupted, has qualities that would take care of the sewer and other untreated effluents in the river,” says Singh.
Yet, the government has been blocking the river flow through the construiction of hydel projects in the higher reaches of the river. Singh says that three hyder projhects in Uttarakhand, which had been stalled by the UPA government, are being actively considered for resumption by the BJP state government in Uttarakhand.
“Have they done anything for ensuring the aviral dhara? How can the Ganga be clean if there is no uninterrupted flow,” asks Singh.
“The ecological flow is directly linked to the health of the river. Thy will kill the Ganga if they come back to power, leave alone cleaning it up,” he adds.