One Last Effort to Get the Ganga Cleanby Opinion Express September 6, 2018 0 comments
After a frustrating three decades of monitoring efforts to clean the Ganga, Government has decided to make one last attempt to take care of the Nation’s pride – River Ganga.
That the measures taken till date by successive Governments to resuscitate the Ganga and restore it to its pristine glory have been woefully inadequate and lacklustre when it comes to on-ground implantation is obvious. But this time around, the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, which is tasked with the duty to clean India’s most revered water body, seems to have focused its efforts on one of the most intriguing questions: Why did existing laws not work? The drafting of the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017, which has been an ongoing process ever since the proposal was first mooted in 2016, has this time added some verisimilitude to the already stringent measures proposed earlier. It has infused more vigour to the programme by arming the Ganga Protection Corps with the authority to arrest the culprits who pollute the river. Besides, it has also called for strict penalties up to five lakh rupees and a jail term up to three years for those obstructing the flow of the river. The National Ganga Council and a National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority have been tasked to regulate, monitor and ensure strict vigilance to ensure those found guilty are punished.
But with just about six months to go for the 2019 General Election, which would also mark an end to the frankly over-ambitious target set to clean 80 per cent of the river by March 2019, the draft Bill is possibly a last-ditch effort by the Government to try and come through on its poll promise of a Clean Ganga. Over the past four years since the Centre made the Namami Gange a top priority, it has covered some ground but far from enough. The project remains at the heart of the efforts of the nodal agency, the Union Water Ministry, which has been rearranging its target and modifying the measures needed to clean the river but the results have not been too visible. From renaming the project to launching key initiatives, the Government has done decent work. But the allocation of a whopping Rs 20,000 crore remains underutilized. The implementation of environmental laws has been haphazard and the NGT as well as the CAG, not to mention the Supreme Court, have periodically hauled up the Government for non-performance of duties. The problem is nothing seems to be working. It is here that the draft Bill will have a bearing on what has been done until now because it addresses the key issue of the shocking gaps between intent and implementation. Punitive actions administered without fear or favour ought to be the last resort but it has come to that because we as citizens too do not follow the law. But that’s only one part of it. The constant tussle for turf between different bodies has, as always, created roadblocks and contributed to the non-implementation of laws. For the Government, the problem remains: How can it guarantee that all proposed steps will be implemented? Will those assigned to police the river remain true to their duty or will they accord top priority to corruption and misuse of penal provisions? If Government can ensure the latter is not the case, it may prevent history from repeating itself. Saving the Ganga, along with at least six other major rivers across the country, is not just an environmental imperative but defines who we are as Indians, it is an integral part of the core philosophical belief of who we are as a nation. The proposal for an Act for speedy implementation of the Government’s flagship Clean Ganga programme was hailed as a one-of-its-kind reformist measure to clean the river. It must see the light of the day now and its provisions speedily implemented.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer