New Delhi: With a little over nine months left before the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious Ganga cleaning programme ‘Namami Gange’ ends, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has so far managed to spend just 29 per cent of the sanctioned Rs 28,790 crore budget to complete 37 per cent of the projects.
The NMCG, which comes under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, is administering the programme.
According to data made available by the ministry to Rajya Sabha on 2 March, the NMCG has as of January this year managed to spend Rs 8,352.86 crore towards the completion of 116 of the total 310 sanctioned river cleaning projects.
A senior ministry official told ThePrint that a final call is yet to be taken, but the Namami Gange programme will be extended beyond December 2020 in all likelihood.
“The budget was sanctioned for a five-year period for setting up the infrastructure. But their operation and maintenance will be a continuous process and there has to be a budget for it,” said the official who didn’t want to be named.
The Modi government had launched the programme in 2015 with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for the period between 2014-15 and 31 December 2020. However, the cost of setting up sewage infrastructure, ghat, crematoria and riverfront development, and river surface cleaning, among other sanctioned projects, was subsequently raised to Rs 28,790 crore.
Of the total 310 projects sanctioned for cleaning the Ganga, 116 or 37 per cent have been completed as of January while work is underway in the remaining ones, according to the Jal Shakti ministry data.
A bulk of the projects sanctioned, 152, pertain to putting in place sewage infrastructure, like sewage treatment plants (STPs) — one of the most crucial components to keep the river clean.
Of these 152 STPs, only 46 have been completed as of January, the data said.
Once completed, the 152 STPs will have a capacity to treat 4,874 million litres a day (MLD) of sewage. These projects are coming up in eight states — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana Delhi and Himachal Pradesh — through which the 2,525-km river flows.
Currently, the 97 towns located on the main stem of the river generate 2,953 MLD of sewage, and the available treatment capacity is only 1,794 MLD. There are a total of 155 large drains which discharge sewage directly into the river.
Of the 46 completed projects, Delhi is at the bottom of the list with not a single one of the 11 sanctioned STPs executed. Bihar is second worst with just one out of the 30 sanctioned STPs completed.
West Bengal has completed three out of the 22 STPs while Uttar Pradesh, where the longest stretch (1,000 km) of the river flows, has completed just 16 of the 50 sanctioned STPs.
The Jal Shakti ministry, in its response to the unstarred question, informed the Rajya Sabha that Namami Gange is spread over different sectors and involves several agencies.
“… implementation level bottlenecks and procedural delays are inherent. Attempt has, however, been made by NMCG to expeditiously sort out these issues and improve the pace of implementation of the programme,” the ministry told the Upper House.
Higher Namami Gange ad spend
While the progress of various river cleaning infrastructure being put in place might be behind the mark, the Jal Shakti ministry bumped up its ad spending for the programme over the last two fiscals.
According to the latest data, the NMCG spent a total of Rs 57.89 crore between 2014-15 and 20 February 2020 on advertisements published in print and electronic media.
During this period, the maximum spending was in the last fiscal when NMCG’s expenditure on advertisements was Rs 33.22 crore. The 2018-19 fiscal was the last year of the Modi government’s first term in office, before its re-election in May 2019.
Until 20 February in the ongoing 2019-20 fiscal, the NMCG spent Rs 9.53 crore on advertisements.
Ministry officials, who didn’t want to be named, said the ad spend has gone up over the last two fiscals because of the realisation that awareness and behavioural change are equally important to make Namami Gange successful.
“Creating infrastructure to clean the river is just one aspect. People also need to have basic civic sense to keep the river clean. This is where awareness campaigns and advertisements help,” said a second ministry official.