UPSC Mains 2019: Ganga Rejuvenation

ganga rejuvenation


Topic: Think small: on Ganga Rejuvenation

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 1 : Indian Geography

ganga river system



Bad sanitation is India’s worst-kept secret, but recent data from Uttar Pradesh show that in spite of working in mission mode to expand sanitation, 87% of faecal sludge expelled from toilets in urban areas is untreated. Viewed against the 2030 goal to achieve clean water and sanitation for all under the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, this depressing statistic shows how much work remains to be done.


More about on news:

  • At the national scale, a United Nations report of 2015 estimates that 65,000 tonnes of untreated faeces is introduced into the environment in India annually.
  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan promised a major shift, but it has focussed more on the basic requirement of household and community toilets in rural and urban areas.
  • The study in U.P. conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has now exposed broken links, of faecal sludge and septage being collected from household tanks and simply discharged into drains, open land and wetlands.
  • The problem of the waste not being contained, collected without manual labour, transported and treated safely is becoming graver.
  • It is now time for a new approach. This has to be decentralised and different from the strategy being used to clean the Ganga, for which the NDA government announced an outlay of ₹20,000 crore in 2015.


Ganga-A National River

  • The Himalayas are the source of three major Indian rivers namely the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
  • Ganga drains a basin of extraordinary variation in altitude,climate, land use, flora & fauna, social and cultural life.
  • Ganga has been a cradle of human civilization since time immemorial. Millions depend on this great river for physical and spiritual sustenance. People have immense faith in the powers of healing and regeneration of the Ganga.
  • It is arguably the most sacred river in the world and is deeply revered by the people of India.
  • The River plays a vital role in religious ceremonies and rituals. To bathe in Ganga is a lifelong ambition of many who congregate in large numbers for several river centered festivals such as Kumbh Mela and numerous Snan (bath) festivals.



  • Ganga basin is the largest river basin in India in terms of catchment area, constituting 26% of the country’s land mass (8,61,404 Sq. km) and supporting about 43% of its population (448.3 million as per 2001 census).
  • The basin covers 11 states viz., Uttarakhand, U.P., M.P., Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi.
  • The current focus of World Bank funded National Ganga River Basin Projects (NGRBP) of NMCG is on five major states on the main stem of river Ganga namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.


StatesDrainage area(km)
Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh294,364
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh198,962
Bihar and Jharkhand143,961
West Bengal71,485
Himachal Pradesh4,317


Causes for the Impurity of Ganga:

There may be many causes for the impurity of River Ganga. Which was generally categorized into two types,

  • Natural causes,
  • Man-made causes.


Natural Causes:

  • Soil erosion due to rains, deposition of dead and decaying remains of plants and animals, high-speed winds, floods, etc., are some of the natural phenomena that contribute to water pollution.


Man-Made Causes;

  • Due to the mixing of Sewage disposal and Industrial waste in the River Ganga causes pollution to it.
  • Our national river is one of the most polluted rivers in the country, and one of the 10 most threatened river basins in the world.
  • The quality of the Ganges is decreasing steadily. Due to the mixing of wastages, the water of Ganga is not only unfit for drinking but also harmful to agricultural purposes.
  • The level of Coliform bacteria, a type of bacteria which indicates the purity of water, must be below 50 for drinking and above 5000 for agricultural purposes.
  • The present stage of Coliform in the Ganga is 5500.Disposal of dead bodies and immersion of idols of gods and goddesses into water bodies during various festivals in India degrade the quality of water. Such water pollution can affect the ecosystem of the river.


Need To Clean Up the Ganga

  • The River Ganga was most polluted in the recent years. Recently, discharges from the Barauni Oil Refinery caused gross pollution along a long stretch of the main Ganga. The main factories, which pollute the stream are sugar, distillery, tin, glycerine, paint soap, rayon, silk and yarn.
  • A major step to control and clean up the Ganga had been taken in1984 when the Central Ganga authority was established to implement the Ganga Action Plan. This plan had identified 27 cities and 120 factories as points of pollution from Haridwar to Hooghly.
  • According to a recent survey made by The Department of Atomic Energy’s National Centre for Compositional Characterisation of Materials (NCCM) in Hyderabad has tested water samples from Ganga and found the river water contained Carcinogens. So, a dip in river Ganga can possibly cause cancer.
  • A study conducted by the Uttaranchal Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) categorised river water into four categories, A being fit for drinking, B for bathing, C for agriculture and D is for excessive pollution level. The sad news is that the Ganga’s water is given a definite D.
  • There are 400 million people who live close to the river Ganga, so there was a need to clean the River Ganga. Because their basic needs should be fulfilled only by the river.


National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG):

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • At national level NMCG is the coordinating body and is being supported by States Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) of UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal which, are also registered as societies under Societies Registration Act, 1860 and a dedicated Nodal Cell in Jharkhand.
  • The area of operation of NMCG shall be the Ganga River Basin, including the states through which Ganga flows, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
  • The area of operation may be extended, varied or altered in future, by the Governing Council to such other states through which major tributaries of the river Ganga flow, and as the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) may decide for the purpose of effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga.


The aims and objectives of NMCG

  • To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and
  • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.


Vision and Key Function


  • The Vision for Ganga Rejuvenation constitutes restoring the wholesomeness of the river defined in terms of ensuring “Aviral Dhara” (Continuous Flow”), “Nirmal Dhara”(“Unpolluted Flow”), Geologic and ecological integrity.


Key Functions

To achieve the objectives, NMCG shall carry out the following key functions namely:

  • Implement the work programme of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • Implement the World Bank supported National Ganga River Basin Project.
  • Coordinate and oversee the implementation of projects sanctioned by Government of India under NGRBA.
  • Undertake any additional work or functions as may be assigned by MoWRRD &GJ in the area of conservation of river Ganga.
  • Make rules and regulations for the conduct of the affairs of the NMCG and add or amend, vary or rescind them from time to time.
  • Accept or to provide any grant of money, loan securities or property of any kind and to undertake and accept the management of any endowment trust, fund or donation not inconsistent with the objectives of NMCG.
  • Take all such action and to enter all such actions as may appear necessary or incidental for the achievements of the objectives of the NGRBA.


Namami Gange Project:

Namami Gange Project or Namami Ganga Yojana is an ambitious Union Government Project in May 2015, which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner. It its maiden budget, the governnment announced Rs. 2037 Crore towards this mission. The project is officially known as Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission project or ‘Namami Ganga Yojana’. This project aims at Ganga Rejuvenation by combining the existing ongoing efforts and planning under it to create a concrete action plan for future.


Main pillars of the Namami Gange Project are:

  • Expanding waste/sewage treatment
  • River Front Development
  • River surface cleaning
  • Bio-diversity
  • Afforestation
  • Public awareness
  • Industrial affluent monitoring
  • Ganga Gram


Features of Namami Gange Project: 

  • The projects on entry-level activities such as Ghat and crematoria construction/repair, river front beautification, installation and repair of sewage treatment plants (STPs) and others work will be launched simultaneously from over 104 locations initially in all five basin states of Ganga.
  • Its implementation has been divided into Entry-Level Activities (for immediate visible impact), Medium-Term Activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame) and Long-Term Activities (to be implemented within 10 years).
  • The project will cover 8 states, 47 towns and 12 rivers under the project.
  • project also launch an application to monitor the level of pollution in the rivers
  • Over 1,632 gram Panchayats on the banks of Ganga to be made open defecation-free by 2022.
  • Several ministries are working with nodal Water Resources Ministry for this project includes – Environment, Urban Development , Shipping, Tourism & Rural Development Ministries
  • Expansion of coverage of sewerage infrastructure in 118 urban habitations on banks of Ganga.
  • Tenders for 10 STPs based on hybrid annuity model will be floated by July 31.
  • On the basis of recommendations of the Forest Research Institute, trees will be planted in 2,700 hectare areas along the holy river during the current financial year.
  • Prime focus will be on involving people living on the river’s banks in this project.
  • Under the aegis of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) & State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) States and Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj institutions will be involved in this project.
  • 3 projects on Water quality monitoring of river Ganga
  • 2 projects on Ganga Knowledge Centre
  • “River Surface and Ghat Cleaning” programme using thrash skimmer has been taken up initially in 6 cities namely Mathura-Vrindavan, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and New Delhi under the Namami Gange programme.
  • In previous attempts to clean Ganga, the major was Ganga Action plan which was launched in two phase manner by then PM Mr. Rajiv Gandhi:
  • Phase I: Covered 25 Ganga towns in three states over Rs 862.59 crore were spent.
  • Phase II: Covered 59 towns in five states over Rs 505.31 cr were spent.


The key achievements under Namami Gange programme are:-

  • Creating Sewerage Treatment Capacity: 63 sewerage management projects under implementation in the States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.12 new sewerage management Projects Launched in these states. Work is under construction for creating Sewerage capacity of 1187.33 (MLD).Hybrid Annuity PPP Model based two projects has been initiated for Jagjeetpur, Haridwar and Ramanna, Varanasi.
  • Creating River-Front Development: 28 River-Front Development projects and 33 Entry level Projects for construction, modernization and renovation of 182 Ghats and 118 crematoria has been initiated.
  • River Surface Cleaning: River Surface cleaning for collection of floating solid waste from the surface of the Ghats and River and its disposal are afoot and pushed into service at 11 locations.
  • Bio-Diversity Conservation: Several Bio-Diversity conservation projects are namely: Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation, Fish and Fishery Conservation in Ganga River, Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Education Programme has been initiated. 5 Bio-Diversity center’s at Dehradun, Narora, Allahabad, Varanasi and Barrackpore has been developed for restoration of identified priority species.
  • Afforestation: Forestry interventions for Ganga through Wildlife Institute of India; Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute and Centre for Environment Education has been initiated. Forestry interventions for Ganga has been executed as per the Detailed Project Report prepared by Forest Research Institute, Dehradun for a period of 5 years (2016-2021) at project cost of Rs.2300 Crores. Work has been commenced in 7 districts of Uttarakahnd for medicinal plants.
  • Public Awareness: A series of activities such as events, workshops, seminars and conferences and numerous IEC activities were organized to make a strong pitch for public outreach and community participation in the programme. Various awareness activities through rallies, campaigns, exhibitions, shram daan, cleanliness drives, competitions, plantation drives and development and distribution of resource materials were organized and for wider publicity the mass mediums such as TV/Radio, print media advertisements, advertorials, featured articles and advertorials were published. Gange Theme song was released widely and played on digital media to enhance the visibility of the programme.
  • Industrial Effluent Monitoring: Real Time Effluent Monitoring Stations (EMS) has been installed in 572 out of 760 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPIs). Closure notice have been issued to 135 GPIs so far and others have been given deadlines for compliance to stipulated norms and for installations of online EMS.
  • Ganga Gram: Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) identified 1674 Gram Panchayats situated on the bank of River Ganga in 5 State (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal). Rs. 578 Crores has been released to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) for construction of toilets in 1674 Gram Panchayats of 5 Ganga Basin States. Out of the targeted 15, 27,105 units, MoDWS has completed construction of 8, 53,397 toilets.


What ails NAmami Gange project:

  • Continued inflow of untreated wastewater in the Ganga is one of the prime causes of tardy progress of the Namami Gange project to rejuvenate the country’s most revered river. Despite constantly nudging the towns around the Ganga’s banks to put up wastewater treatment plants, the bulk of the sewage generated by them is falling into the river unprocessed.
  • High cost of setting up and operating the refining units is among the major reasons for poor interest in cleansing the dirty water before releasing it into Ganga
  • The total cost of refining the untreated sewage being released into Ganga with the help of the WTC technology would come to only around ~1,300 crores, against over Rs, 10,430 crores in the case of treatment with conventional methods.
  • Constructions of the Hydro power projects are leading to loss of spirituality of Ganga Jal and loss of biodiversity.
  • The Ganga’s vast coverage across multiple states and level of usage indeed makes it difficult to clean it up within a short time period. Recently, it was announced by the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation that the first timeline to clean up Ganga would be delayed by 8 months as “as a society formed in this regard do not have requisite powers to tackle issues related to environment and related subjects.”
  • Large amount of Ganga water used for irrigation is killing the Ganga downstream of Narora.
  • The constructions of inland waterways is leading to increased pollution and killing aquatic life.
  • Undue investment on technical aspects like creating sewage treatment plants to prevent the pollution in river Ganga without involving people living on the banks of the river.
  • Ignoring of the social aspects of pollution in the rivers.
  • Encroachment of the catchment areas and diversion for construction and developmental activities.
  • Polluted river surfaces in Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Mathura and Patna have faced problems related to rampant waste disposal. The river surface near Varanasi and Mathura has particularly faced severe pollution issues due to them being holy sites.
  • Since it is an initiative of the Central Government, the states through which the river flows cannot be isolated. Their cooperation is as important, if not more necessary, since the local government will roll out laws to stop illegal sand mining, and making rain water conservation a reality to boost the ground water level.
  • The issue of cremation is a contentious one, and religious sentiments are attached with the ritual. However, this plays a massive part in polluting the river, and what measures the Government will take will be interesting.
  • The Ganga Action Plan, a similar initiative had to be withdrawn due to very little productive work being achieved, despite a large budget.
  • There is the factor of human waste. Of the amount spent on cleaning up the river, more than 95 per cent went in building the sewage system but just about 33% of the requirement has been met. On average, it costs Rs 5 crore to treat one million litres of waste. Many parts of Uttar Pradesh do not have a sewage system, which means a lot of untreated waste goes into the river.
  • Much of the effort to clean the Ganga over the last 30 years has been centred on creating sewage treatment capacities in major urban centres along the river. Besides the fact that a lot of this capacity has remained underutilized or non-functional, the discharge of urban sewage is only one of several interventions required to rid the holy river of pollution.
  • Solid waste, clothes, polythene, and all kinds of religious offerings are dumped into the river, and float on its surface. It is the easiest to clean them — and can result in a quick visual makeover for the river.
  • There are 764 grossly polluting industries on the banks of the Ganga, mostly in Uttar Pradesh. These include tanneries, paper and pulp industries, sugar mills, dyeing factories, distilleries, and cement plants. Effluents from all these flow untreated into the river. Tanneries near Kanpur alone generate about 25 million litres of effluents daily.
  • A large amount of money has been spent on just holding meetings and discussions. According to sources, a reply to an RTI filed to request for details about expenditure on Ganga cleaning showed that around Rs 44 lakh had been spent only on meetings.
  • Non -involvement of local youth and people who stays near the banks of river.
  • The services of various institutes of social science was not sought by the government.
  • Cleaning of rivers failed because catchment areas were encroached upon and diverted for construction and development activities.
  • One of the reasons could be the dwindling of the natural flow of the river.
  • Increase in population, urbanization, industrialization was much more than cleaning efforts.
  • Gap in capacity creation for sewage treatment and daily discharge. Also a lot of this capacity has remained underutilized or non-functional.


Recent Initiative by the government under Namami Gange:

  • Ganga Manthan: a national conference to discuss issues and solutions for cleaning the river.
  • Ganga Task force: first company of Battalion was deployed at Garhmukteshwar.
  • Ganga Gram Yojana: 1600 villages situated along the banks of river Ganga will be developed under this scheme.
  • MoU with Rotary India to implement ‘WASH in school’ program. The program includes the implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services in the targeted government schools.


Sample Question:

Q) Despite many efforts made to clean the River Ganga, the funds and time spent on cleaning it up have not yielded desired results. Critically examine why and explain if the newly launched scheme to clean River Ganga is suitably designed to address past mistakes and clean the river efficiently? (200 Words)