By Arsh Rampal
A number of projects, worth Rs. 4,000 crore, to rejuvenate the river Ganga has been approved by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). These would be undertaken in various cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The projects, numbering a total of 187, have been sanctioned under the ‘Namami Gange’ programme. Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister of India, during the annual budget for the present year, stated that 47 of these projects have already been completed. The work on the remaining ones is in progress.
The Kanpur projects
Kanpur is the most polluted stretch of the river Ganga in UP due to the presence of several polluting tanneries which have been discharging untreated water into the river for years. This is why, out of the recently approved projects, Kanpur has the most significant ones, amounting to a total of Rs 1,600 crores.
The first project deals with the tannery cluster at Jajmau and is estimated to be worth Rs 629 crore. To be executed by a new special purpose vehicle, Jajmau Tannery Effluent Treatment Association, the project would be completed in three phases. It includes a pre-treatment unit in 380 individual tanneries, along with a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) with a 20 million litres per day capacity. The CETP will have physical, biological and tertiary treatment capabilities. The project also involves the installation of a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) based pilot plant with a 200 kilo-litres per day capacity.
The next project in Kanpur, estimated to be worth around Rs 967 crores, is for the rehabilitation and integration of sewage treatment infrastructure in different zones in the city. The project will work on a Hybrid Annuity-PPP model. According to this model, the government will pay 40 percent of the project cost. The remaining amount will be paid over 15 years as annuities along with operation and maintenance expense.
The treatment of drains
A project involving in-situ/ex-situ bio-remediation treatment of drains estimated to be worth Rs 410 crore, has also been approved by the NMCG. The body has identified major polluting drains where a technology service provider will set up treatment facilities. This will subside pollution in the river Ganga and its tributaries. These drains have been further classified into priority drains which would require immediate intervention.
In order to facilitate the interim period of infrastructure development, steps have been taken to adopt swift, techno-economic and sustainable technologies. In-situ/ex-situ measures help manage pollution load in drains effectively. These will also help control the direct discharge of sewage into river Ganga.
Other projects under the recently approved list include one for rehabilitation in West Bengal. The project is also based on a Hybrid Annuity model and involves operation and maintenance of 15 years. The estimated cost is Rs 165 crore.
A Rs 904 crore project for rehabilitation and integration of sewage treatment has also been approved in Allahabad. The project is modelled similarly to the one in Kanpur. Three sewage infrastructure projects have also been approved in Begusarai, Hajiur and Munger in Bihar with an estimated total cost of Rs 830 cores.
Rejuvenation of the river
River Ganga is considered to be the lifeline of India with many major cities dependant on it. It is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world and is in urgent need of rejuvenation. The approval of several projects under the ‘Namami Gange’ project is a step in that direction.
The process of rejuvenation of river Ganga has, however, been continuing for decades and has been tackled differently by different governments. There has been little improvement, if any, in the health of the river in the past decade. A large number of projects previously undertaken have not transformed into results. The failure of the governments to monitor and meet deadlines on such projects only extend the time frame within which the government plans to rejuvenate the river.
The pace at which 47 of the 187 projects under the ‘Namami Gange’ project have been completed by the present government provide hope that deadlines will be met for other projects as well. It remains a question as to what results the 47 projects have brought about in the health of the Ganga.