One significant promise that the Bharatiya Janata Party made to voters before the 2014 general assembly elections was to deliver a clean Ganga river. The National Clean Ganga Mission was an important part of Modi’s campaign. Four years in, the numbers regarding the project do not look good.
It was reported on May 10 that of the Rs 20,000 crore allocated to the mission, only a fifth has been utilized till March 2018. A financial statement from the NCGM suggests that only Rs 4,254 crore have been utilized for the 193 sanctioned projects.
The mission has been moving at a snail’s pace. In 2017, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had said there will be a visible change in the quality of the river water by 2019, but the current pace of the project may not help in achieving that target.
Out of the 65 entry-level projects meant for cleaning the ghats and constructing new ones, cleaning the riverfront and surface, only 24 have been completed till now. Ministry officials have maintained that despite the delays, there has been progress on some levels.
Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday that with just one year to doomsday, the government’s spending on the clean Ganga mission will see a jump of 70 percent, or Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. Gadkari wants to erase the notion that nothing is happening in the Namami Gange project and said that the Centre will ensure an improvement in water quality.
Gadkari had also said 1,109 industry units that were found to pollute the river have been closed down. He added that while these methods are helping, it is not 100 percent yet. “I have only claimed that we will try to ensure improvement in the river’s water quality by 70 to 80 percent till March 2019.”
Gadkari told Times of India on Friday that the Centre will not allow any more hydel projects on the Ganga since being a part of such projects might get in the way of the river’s self-cleaning ability.
While it seems impractical to spend 80 percent funds in one year and see viable results, Gadkari has responded to reports of underutilization of funds in the project, with optimism. It remains to be seen whether it can be completed before the 2019 elections.