- The Ganges River, often referred to as the “Ganga,” holds immense cultural, spiritual, and ecological significance in India.
- Its waters have nourished civilizations for millennia, and millions of people depend on it for their livelihoods and religious practices.
- However, over the years, the Ganga has faced severe pollution and degradation, threatening its sustainability.
- To address these challenges, the Indian government established the National Ganga Council (NGC), a crucial initiative aimed at rejuvenating and preserving this iconic river.
- In this blog, we will delve into the National Ganga Council, its objectives, and its efforts to restore the Ganga to its former glory.
The Genesis of the National Ganga Council
- The idea of forming a dedicated body to oversee the restoration of the Ganga emerged as a response to the pressing environmental issues plaguing the river.
- In 2016, the government of India took a significant step by creating the National Ganga Council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, reflecting the nation’s commitment to the cause.
- This council was established with the primary objective of cleaning and conserving the Ganga and its basin.
Composition of National Ganga Council
- Prime Minister of India
- Union Minister for Jal Shakti
- Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change
- Union Minister for Finance
- Union Minister for Power
- Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs
- Union Minister for Science and Technology
- Union Minister for Rural Development
- Union Minister of State for Tourism
- Union Minister for Shipping
- Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog
- Chief Minister of Jharkhand
- Chief Minister of Bihar
- Chief Minister of Uttarakhand
- Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
- Chief Minister of West Bengal
- Secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
- Secretary, Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation
- Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
- Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
- Director-General, National Mission for Clean Ganga
Objectives Of the National Ganga Council
- River Ganga Rejuvenation: The primary objective of National Ganga Council is to rejuvenate the Ganga river and restore its water quality to acceptable standards. This involves reducing pollution, improving water flow, and restoring the ecological balance of the river.
- Water Quality Improvement: The National Ganga Council aims to significantly reduce the pollution levels in the Ganga, particularly the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluents. This involves the construction and upgrading of sewage treatment plants and the promotion of cleaner industrial practices.
- Biodiversity Conservation: Protecting and conserving the biodiversity of the Ganga river and its surrounding ecosystems is a key objective. This includes preserving the habitats of various aquatic species and promoting sustainable practices along the riverbanks.
- Sustainable Development: The National Ganga Council seeks to balance the development needs of the region with the ecological preservation of the river. This involves promoting sustainable agriculture, land use, and industrial practices in the Ganga basin.
- Community Involvement: Encouraging community participation and engagement in the conservation and management of the Ganga is essential. The National Ganga Council aims to involve local communities in the decision-making process and empower them to take ownership of Ganga rejuvenation initiatives.
- Infrastructure Development: The council is responsible for the development of infrastructure projects that are critical for the management and conservation of the Ganga. This includes the construction of sewage treatment plants, riverfront development, and other infrastructure projects.
- Research and Innovation: Encouraging research and innovation in the field of Ganga conservation is a priority. The National Ganga Council promotes scientific studies, technology development, and innovative solutions to address the challenges facing the river.
- International Collaboration: Collaborating with other countries and organizations on transboundary water management and conservation is an important aspect of the council’s work, as the Ganga flows through multiple states and countries.
- Monitoring and Compliance: Ensuring that policies and regulations related to Ganga conservation are implemented effectively and monitoring the progress of rejuvenation efforts to track improvements in water quality and ecosystem health.
- Public Awareness and Education: Raising public awareness about the importance of the Ganga river, its cultural significance, and the need for its conservation is a key objective. Education and outreach programs are conducted to engage the public in the conservation efforts.
Functions Of The National Ganga Council
- Policy Formulation: The National Ganga Council is responsible for formulating policies and strategies for the comprehensive and sustainable development of the Ganga River Basin. It sets the direction for various projects and initiatives aimed at cleaning and conserving the river.
- Coordination: It acts as a central coordinating body, bringing together different government agencies, state governments, and stakeholders involved in Ganga rejuvenation projects. This coordination is essential to ensure that efforts are well-aligned and resources are used efficiently.
- Monitoring and Review: The National Ganga Council monitors the progress of various projects and initiatives related to the Ganga’s conservation. It conducts regular reviews to assess the impact of ongoing efforts and to make necessary adjustments to achieve the desired outcomes.
- Resource Mobilization: It plays a role in mobilizing financial and technical resources for Ganga rejuvenation projects. This includes seeking funding from both domestic and international sources, as well as leveraging public-private partnerships.
- Research and Innovation: The National Ganga Council promotes research and innovation in the field of river conservation and management. It encourages the development and adoption of advanced technologies and practices for pollution control and ecological restoration.
- Public Awareness and Engagement: The council undertakes initiatives to raise public awareness about the importance of the Ganga River and the need for its conservation. It also engages with communities living along the river to involve them in the preservation efforts.
- Legal Framework: It helps in the formulation and enforcement of legal and regulatory frameworks for Ganga conservation. This includes setting and monitoring pollution control standards and regulations for industries and municipalities along the river.
- International Collaboration: The council may engage in international collaborations and agreements related to the Ganga River, especially if the river flows into neighboring countries.
- Project Implementation: While it primarily coordinates and oversees projects, the council may also play a role in the implementation of specific projects and initiatives aimed at cleaning and conserving the Ganga.
National Ganga Council: First Meeting
- The first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC) was held on December 14, 2019, in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by Chief Ministers of all the riparian states, as well as Union Ministers of relevant ministries.
- The first meeting of the NGC was aimed at reinforcing the importance of a ‘Ganga-centric’ approach in all departments of the concerned states as well as relevant Central Ministries.
- The meeting also reviewed the progress made under the Namami Gange Programme and discussed ways to accelerate the pace of implementation.
Some of the key decisions taken at the first meeting of the NGC include:
- To expedite the construction of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in all the Ganga basin towns and cities.
- To take steps to reduce industrial pollution in the river basin.
- To promote afforestation and soil conservation measures in the upper catchment areas of the river.
- To increase public participation in the Namami Gange Programme.
- The first meeting of the NGC was an important step towards the realization of the goal of a clean and pollution-free Ganga.
- The decisions taken at the meeting are expected to accelerate the pace of implementation of the Namami Gange Programme and bring about a significant improvement in the water quality of the River Ganga.
Ganga Action Plan
- The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) is a comprehensive environmental initiative undertaken by the Indian government to clean and rejuvenate the Ganges River, one of the most sacred and polluted rivers in India.
- The plan was launched in 1985 with the primary objective of reducing pollution and restoring the water quality of the Ganga River.
Key objectives and components of the Ganga Action Plan include:
- Pollution Control: The plan aimed to control and reduce the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluents into the Ganga and its tributaries. This involved the establishment of sewage treatment plants (STPs) and effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in cities and industries located along the river.
- Sewerage Infrastructure: Building and upgrading sewerage infrastructure in urban areas to ensure the safe disposal of sewage and prevent its direct discharge into the river.
- Industrial Effluent Control: Regulating and treating industrial effluents to prevent them from contaminating the river. Industries were required to install effluent treatment plants to treat their wastewater before discharge.
- Riverfront Development: Implementing riverfront development projects to enhance the aesthetic and environmental quality of the Ganga’s banks, including the development of parks, walkways, and green spaces.
- Public Awareness and Participation: Creating awareness among the public, including religious leaders and local communities, about the importance of preserving the Ganga and involving them in the cleanup efforts.
- Water Quality Monitoring: Establishing a network of water quality monitoring stations to continuously monitor the health of the river and track progress in pollution reduction.
- The Ganga Action Plan was later extended and evolved into the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2009, which had a broader mandate to address issues related to the Ganga River basin’s overall management and ecological health.
- While significant efforts have been made under the Ganga Action Plan and its subsequent iterations, the task of cleaning and restoring the Ganga is complex and ongoing. Despite decades of investment and initiatives, pollution levels in the river remain a challenge due to rapid urbanization, industrialization, and population growth.
- The conservation of the Ganga continues to be a priority for the Indian government, with various programs and projects aimed at achieving the long-term goal of a clean and healthy Ganga River.
Achievements and Challenges of National Ganga Council
Since its inception, the National Ganga Council has made significant strides in its mission to clean and rejuvenate the Ganga.
Some notable achievements include:
- Reduction in Pollution Levels: Efforts to reduce pollution from industrial sources and municipalities have resulted in a noticeable improvement in water quality.
- Infrastructure Development: Several sewage treatment plants and infrastructure projects have been initiated to manage wastewater effectively.
- Afforestation: Large-scale afforestation programs have been successful in restoring green cover in the Ganga basin.
However, the challenges are immense. The Ganga’s problems are deeply rooted and complex, requiring sustained efforts over many years.
Ensuring the long-term success of the NGC will depend on overcoming obstacles such as:
- Political Will: The commitment of successive governments to the cause must remain strong to achieve lasting results.
- Coordination: Effective coordination among various government agencies, states, and stakeholders is essential for the successful implementation of NGC projects.
- Funding: Adequate funding is crucial to sustain the ongoing efforts and complete planned projects.
- The National Ganga Council represents a commendable effort by the Indian government to rejuvenate and preserve the Ganga, one of the most revered rivers in the world.
- While challenges remain, the progress made so far serves as a testament to the nation’s determination to protect this iconic river for future generations.
- Through a combination of water quality improvement, infrastructure development, afforestation, and community involvement, the NGC is charting a course towards a cleaner, healthier Ganga.
- As the world watches, the success of this initiative could set a precedent for the conservation of other sacred rivers and natural ecosystems globally.