Scroll Top

THE RACE TO SAVE GANGA: LAW AND POLICY

INTRODUCTION

Ganga, one of the most pious rivers on earth, the mother of all, nourishes mankind timelessly throughout its stretches of more than 2000 km[1]. This mighty river is the primordial source of life for the diverse ecosystem on the planet. We seek the waters of this holy river to not only cater to our materialistic needs involving agriculture and industry but also one seeks this holy river for spiritual blessings and redemption all along our life. But mankind has carved a path to grave damage to this holy river by polluting it to a great extent making it the most polluted river on earth. Since Independence, many initiatives have been constantly taken by the government for cleaning Ganga and its tributaries for making it fit for use. Many projects failed; new schemes opened yet much has to be done to save our holy river.

ORIGIN AND TRIBUTARIES OF GANGA

Amongst the majestic mountains of Garhwal Himalayas originates river Bhagirathi, from a small ice cave called Gomukh in Gangotri Glacier[2]. The river flows down and meets river Alaknanda forming river Ganga. Rainfall and other tributaries contribute to Ganga and the river ends its journey in the Bay of Bengal[3]. The second longest river in India Yamuna is a major tributary of the river Ganga. Brahmaputra, Koshi, Gomti, Ghandak, Damodar, etc. are the other tributaries of this holy river[4].

HISTORY AND MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS

The Ganga Action Plan, which was established in 1986, for the provinces of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, was the first significant effort to clean the river. The major goal was to raise the river’s quality to the necessary requirements. 35 sewage treatment facilities were constructed throughout the three states.[5] The initiative failed to achieve its objective. Later in 2009, National Ganga River Basin Authority was established for the clean-up of the river[6]. Of the 11 billion liters of sewage, just 45%, according to a 2010 estimate by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, originate from the 181 cities and villages along the Ganges.[7] It was discovered that the tanneries in Kanpur discharged significant amounts of industrial waste in the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Others[8]. The industries release the pollutants into city drains before sending them directly into the river. The municipality was held responsible for not treating it before allowing it to flow into the river[9]. The court demanded adequate measures to be taken immediately. The verdict highlighted the significance of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, of 1974. This Act also called the Water Act, section 24 prohibits the disposal of any polluting substances in water bodies[10]. Section 16[11] and Section 17[12] state the power of Central and State Boards for taking requisite actions.

The Clean Ganga Fund was established in 2014 to establish sewage treatment programs, assisting in the cleaning and preservation of Ganga’s biodiversity. The National Green Tribunal also prohibited the disposal of garbage in rivers that year[13]. Chief secretaries in 11 states in the Ganga basin received instructions from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in 15 points. The directives included collecting a fine of Rs.50,000, barricading ghats, and construction of temporary ponds with a removable synthetic lining at the bottom. It made it mandatory to make alternative eco-friendly immersion arrangements. Also, it prohibits the use of non-biodegradable, synthetic, chemical materials and dyes for idol making[14].

NAMAMI GANGE PROGRAMME

Namami Gange, which was initiated in June 2014 with an approximate twenty thousand crore rupee budget, is one of the largest initiatives currently being undertaken by the government to clean the Ganga[15]. The Namami Gange is implemented by NMCG and its other state organizations[16]. It has a twin objective of ending pollution and conserving the river. It is an Integrated Conservation Mission run under the Ministry of Jal Shakti’s Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Infrastructure for sewage treatment, riverfront construction, river surface sanitation, biodiversity, reforestation, public education, Monitoring of industrial effluent, and Ganga Gramme make up its key pillars. Following are the highlights of the initiatives undertaken so far:

  1. Sewage Treatment Plants[17]: 99 sewage projects have been completed in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan.
  2. Renovation of ghats[18]: Construction, modernization, and renovation of 71 ghats, and ponds have been initiated.
  3. Surface Cleaning[19]: At selected 11 locations arrangements have been made for collecting solid waste that floats on the surface of riverbeds.
  4. Protection of Biodiversity[20]: Protecting and restoring endemic and endangered biodiversity of the river is one of the major mottos of this program. High Biodiversity areas have been identified and rescue and rehabilitation centers have been established. Volunteers called Ganga Praharis are a group of people who are trained and given the necessary skills that will help in conservatio
  5. Afforestation projects[21]: Afforestation along the banks and tributaries of Ganga is another major objective of this initiative. A Detailed Project Report for the afforestation has been created by the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun. The paper outlines guidelines for starting the afforestation programme under the following four headings: Natural landscape, Agriculture landscape, Urban landscape, and Conservation interventions.
  6. Ganga Gram[22]: Gram Panchayats received funds for the construction of toilets in these selected places.
  7. Monitoring the release of industrial effluent[23]: Grossly Polluting Industries are inspected annually for verification of pollution norms.
  8. Public Awareness[24]: Various awareness activities like seminars, workshops, rallies, cleanliness drives, plantation programs, and distribution of resources are carried out to ensure the participation of the public. Mass media mediums like TV, radio, social media, advertisements, and editorials are used for making people aware of various programs and schemes and to generate maximum participation.

CONCLUSION

Ganga is revered throughout the land of India and around the world. Ganga gives and takes. In recent times, the frequency of floods has increased and on the other hand, the river and its tributaries in some places are drying up. Pollution and negligence had led to these developments. The Indian Constitution’s Article 48A[25] requires the State to take different measures to protect the environment from pollution, and Article 51(g) declares that it is the responsibility of every person to preserve and maintain the natural environment, which includes lakes, rivers, forests, and wildlife[26]. It is high time we realize the importance of the conservation of the river that has helped to thrive mankind throughout the ages. As a citizen, it is our duty to refrain from any activities that can harm the river and its ecosystem and support actively the programs initiated by the government to save our river, Ganga.

Author(s) Name: Adukathil Anuja Narayanan (Government Law College)

Reference(s):

[1]Nafis Ahmad and Deryck O. Lodrick, ‘Ganges River’(Britannica, 19 May 2023) <https://www.britannica.com/place/Ganges-River > accessed 21 May 2023

[2]India Water Resources Information System, ‘Ganga’ (India-Wris, 28 August 2021) <https://indiawris.gov.in/wiki/doku.php?id=ganga >accessed 10 May 2023

[3] Nafis Ahmad (n 1)

[4] ‘Ganges River Basin’(National Geographic, 15 July 2022)<https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/ganges-river-basin/ > accessed 10 May 2023

[5]George Black, ‘What it Takes to Clean Ganga’ (New Yorker, 25 July 2016) <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/what-it-takes-to-clean-the-ganges> accessed 12 May 2023

[6] ‘Function and Power of NGRBA’ (NMCG) <https://nmcg.nic.in/ngrbaread.aspx > accessed 12 May 2023

[7] Zia Haq, ‘New Ganga law will define cleanliness levels, make polluters pay’ (Hindustan Times, 19 August 2020)

<https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/modi-govt-to-bring-new-law-to-keep-ganga-clean/story-XT0sNAofJAyBiUcF6STg8L.html >  accessed 12 May 2023

[8] M.C Mehta v Union of India and Ors (1988) AIR 1115

[9] Ibid

[10] Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, s 24

[11] Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, s 16

[12] Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, s 17

[13]’ NGT orders Rs 50,000 fine for dumping waste into Ganga’ (Indian Express, 13 July 2017)

<https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ngt-orders-rs-50000-fine-on-dumping-waste-between-haridwar-and-unnao-in-ganga/ > accessed 21 May 2023

[14]Ibid

[15]’Namami Gange Programme-At a Glance’(NMCG) <https://nmcg.nic.in/NamamiGanga.aspx > accessed 07 June 2023  

[16] ‘Namami Gange Programme’(National Portal of India, 28 October 2021) <https://www.india.gov.in/spotlight/namami-gange-programme#tab=tab-1> accessed 21 May 2023

[17]Namami Gange Programme-At a Glance (n 15)

[18]Ibid

[19]Ibid

[20]Ibid

[21]Ibid

[22]Ibid

[23]Ibid

[24]Ibid

[25] Constitution of India 1950, art. 48A

[26] Constitution of India 1950, art. 51(g)