New Delhi: Unused funds, the absence of a long-term plan and the lack of pollution abatement works are hampering the rejuvenation of the Ganga, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report made public on Tuesday.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the nodal body for cleaning the Ganga, “could not utilize any amount out of the Clean Ganga Fund", which meant that the entire amount of Rs198.14 crore (as of 31 March, 2017) was lying in banks, the report revealed.
Cleaning the Ganga is a flagship project of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, for which it had established the Clean Ganga Fund.
The CAG’s performance audit report on ‘Rejuvenation of River Ganga (Namami Gange)’, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, said, “Funds amounting to ₹ ,133.76 crore, ₹ 422.13 crore and ₹ 9.28 crore were lying unutilized with the National Mission for Clean Ganga, various state programme management groups and executing agencies/central public sector undertakings (as on 31 March, 2017)."
Slamming the central government for inaction, the CAG report said that NMCG “could not finalize the long-term action plans even after more than six-and-a-half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology".
It highlighted that NMCG also does not have a “river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than eight years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification."
It stressed “river conservation zones were not identified in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal till May 2017". In Uttarakhand, the identification is under progress.
On the issue of pollution abatement and river ghat development works, the report said, “As per the target dates, award for the work of all the sewage treatment plants (STPs) was to be completed by September 2016" but “NMCG is yet to finalize and approve detailed project reports for projects totalling 1,397 MLD (million litres per day) capacity as of August 2017".
It noted that out of 46 STPs, interception and diversion projects and canal works costing Rs5,111.36 crore, there were delays in 26 projects costing Rs2,710.14 crore due to delay in execution of projects, non-availability of land, slow progress of work by contractors and under-utilization of STPs.
“Projects relating to ghats and crematoria works suffered from non-obtaining of requisite clearances," it added.
It also slammed solid liquid waste management activities and said such activities were not taken up in any of the identified districts of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
The report also pulled up authorities for not meeting frequently to monitor the progress of cleaning work. It stated that India’s apex pollution watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board, spent (as of March 2017) only Rs14.77 crore (7.44%) from the total of Rs198.48 crore given for three projects on monitoring and evaluation.
The report recommended that NMCG prepare an “annual action plan, align budget estimates based on annual action plan and take appropriate action to regularly review actual expenditure vis-à-vis budget allocation".
It also asked NMCG to formulate the action plan for proper utilization of the Clean Ganga Fund. It further asked NMCG to finalize the Ganga River Basin Management Plan for implementation of long-term intervention on Ganga rejuvenation on priority.
The Ganga originates in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, flows for 2,525km passing through five Indian states—Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal—before discharging into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga basin covers 26% of the country.