Centre approves Rs20,000 crore for Namami Ganga scheme4 min read . Updated: 14 May 2015, 12:22 AM IST
Centre will now take over 100% funding of various activities/projects under this programme
The Union cabinet approved on Wednesday an outlay of ₹ 20,000 crore for the next five years for the “Namami Gange" (Clean Ganga) project.
The project to clean up the polluted national river is to be implemented by the national mission for clean Ganga and its state counterparts.
The Clean Ganga programme was one of the manifesto promises of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the largest constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which completes a year in office on 26 May.
The government has already set up a separate ministry to lead the effort to rejuvenate the river.
“Marking a major shift in implementation, the government is focusing on involving people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results. Drawing from the lessons learnt from previous implementation, the programme also focuses on involving the states and grassroots-level institutions, such as urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions, in implementation," said a statement released by the government.
To speed up the process, the centre will take over the entire funding of various activities and projects under the programme.
The centre also plans to provide for operation and maintenance of assets for a minimum period of 10 years.
Namami Gange will focus on “pollution abatement interventions" through the treatment of wastewater flowing through drains into the river, use of innovative technology and immediate short-term measures for arresting pollution at exit points on the riverfront.
The government is also planning to set up a four-battalion Ganga eco-task force as a territorial army unit. The ministry of defence has approved the proposal for the unit, which will include ex-servicemen who will help improve public awareness about the river and stop people from polluting it. This is part of efforts to turn the mission into a “people’s programme"—something that has already been endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The government is also considering legislation to check pollution and protect the river.
The current budget allots ₹ 4,173 crore for water resources and Namami Gange—more than double the initial sum of ₹ 2,037 crore that was set aside in the previous budget presented in July 2014, when the programme was announced.
Environmentalists were disappointed with the programme.
“It is old wine in an old bottle. Nothing is going to happen if the government continues to take this approach. It is not different from the Ganga Action Plan and Yamuna Action Plan. It is an ecological problem and not an engineering one. Disappointed with this approach. The river needs flow; there is no mention of strategy of how to bring back the flow," said Manoj Mishra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a Delhi-based organization working to revive Yamuna river.
The cabinet on Wednesday also gave approval to India signing a pact with China for cooperation in mining and minerals. The pact will provide an institutional mechanism for cooperation and “will help in exchange of information on resources, laws and policy...encouragement of transfer of technologies and promotion of value addition," said a government statement.
The cabinet also approved the signing of a tourism promotion agreement with China, as part of the efforts to promote people-to-people understanding between the two countries.
“The agreement is to be signed during forthcoming visit of the prime minister to China," a government statement said, referring to Modi’s 14-16 May visit. He will also visit Mongolia and South Korea after China.
“The main objectives of this agreement are…to encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders, including hotels and tour operators; to establish the exchange programmes…to invest in the tourism and hospitality sectors; to participate in travel fairs, exhibitions in each other’s country; and to promote safe and sustainable tourism," said the statement.
The cabinet gave its go-ahead for a pact between India and Mongolia for cooperation in border guarding, policing and surveillance. The agreement “will strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of border management as both countries’ borders are porous and have difficult terrain," another government statement said. It will also “increase effectiveness in border security cooperation and best practices sharing. This would help in providing necessary peaceful ambience which is a prerequisite for the development of society as a whole," it added.
Another pact for the transfer of sentenced persons between India and Mongolia that will enable such people to complete their sentences in their home country, also received the cabinet’s nod.
The cabinet also cleared the signing of two pacts for cooperation with South Korea in electric power development and renewable energy and in the area of maritime transport and logistics.
The former is “expected to take forward development in the power sector for providing equitable access to reliable electricity supply to consumers through bilateral cooperation," a government statement said. “The focus of attention will be bilateral cooperation in the areas of electric power development, renewable energy, smart grids, transmission and distribution of electric power, energy efficiency and energy storage systems. Measures in these areas will improve energy security and reliability of supply, improve energy access and facilitate sustainable economic growth."
The pact on maritime cooperation aims to boost cooperation in sharing of technologies, training of seafarers, port operation, facilitate cooperation and partnerships between the maritime transport, the utilization, development and management of domestic and overseas ports.
The cabinet also approved a comprehensive new urea policy for the next four financial years. It aims at maximizing indigenous urea production and promoting energy efficiency in urea units to reduce the government’s subsidy burden.
The policy will result in total subsidy savings (direct and indirect) of at least ₹ 4,829 crore over the next four years.
“Savings in energy shall reduce the carbon footprint and would thus be more environment-friendly. It will enable the domestic urea sector to become more energy efficient, would rationalize the subsidy burden and incentivize urea units to maximize their production at the same time," said an official statement.