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National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)  |

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) 

Context:

∙ The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the agency responsible for abatement of pollution in river Ganga and its tributaries, has assumed new powers.

About

∙ The NMCG issued a notification recently to amend the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.

∙ The NMCG now has powers to allow discharge of treated sewage, which conforms to the norms prescribed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

∙ The discharge into rivers or any other water bodies is allowed only after exploring the option of its direct reuse for purposes such as agricultural use, industrial use, etc.

∙ The move will ensure more water into the rivers. For instance, 560 minimal liquid discharge treated sewage water from the Okhla Sewage Treatment plant in Delhi may be released into Yamuna, which will increase the flow of the river.

ο Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Union Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation).

ο National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

ο State Ganga Committees.

ο District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.

ο NMCG has a two-tier management structure and comprises Governing Council and Executive Committee.

a. Both are headed by Director General, NMCG and the Executive Committee has been authorised to accord approval for all projects up to Rs.1000 crore.

Challenges persists

∙ The NMCG, though well-intentioned, faces several challenges in its quest to rejuvenate the Ganges River.

Funding and resource constraints:

∙ Inadequate allocation: Despite being a 20,000 crore mission, only a fraction of the funds have been disbursed to states, hindering project implementation.

∙ Financial dependence: States often lack their own budget for river conservation, making them reliant on central funds, creating delays and uncertainty.

Infrastructure and technological limitations:

∙ Outdated sewage treatment plants: Many existing STPs require upgrades or are malfunctioning, leading to untreated sewage flowing into the river.

∙ Limited monitoring and data collection: Real-time water quality monitoring systems are crucial for effective action, but their coverage is insufficient.

Social and behavioral challenges:

∙ Cultural practices: Traditional practices like idol immersion and washing clothes in the river contribute to pollution.

∙ Industrial waste discharge: Untreated industrial effluents from factories continue to pollute the river, requiring stricter enforcement of environmental regulations.

Policy and governance challenges:

∙ Riverbed sand mining: Unsustainable sand mining practices can damage the riverbed and disrupt ecological balance.

∙ Fragmented institutional framework: Multiple agencies at central state and local levels are involved, but coordination and accountability are often lacking.

∙ Limited focus on upstream river basins: Pollution control efforts primarily focus on the main stem of the Ganga, neglecting upstream tributaries that contribute significantly to the problem.

Measures

∙ Several Sewage Treatment Plants took time to be commissioned as there were problems with land acquisition. Hence, there is a need to ease the process of land acquisition.

∙ The Detailed Project Reports, which prescribe steps to execute a project, and the roles of various actors, needs revision as there is an impression that building treatment plants is entirely the Centre’s responsibility.

∙ The parameters used by the Central Pollution Control Board (levels of dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, and faecal coliform), vary widely along various stretches of the river, reflecting still a long way ahead.

∙ On the lines of the air quality index, there is a need to develop a water quality index, to be able to better communicate about river-water quality of various locations.

Way Ahead

∙ The NMCG has made significant progress in several areas, such as setting up wastewater treatment plants, increasing public awareness, and promoting riverfront development.

∙ Continuous efforts to address the challenges, along with innovative solutions and increased public participation, are crucial for the mission’s long-term success and the ultimate revival of the Ganges.

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