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Centre okays Rs 20,000-cr kitty for Namami Ganga scheme


New Delhi:  The Union Cabinet today approved a massive Rs 20,000 crore budget for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet ‘Namami Gange Programme’ for the next five years, which is a five-fold increase over the money spent in the last three decades towards the conservation of the river.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Modi, approved the flagship programme which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river in a comprehensive manner, a government statement here said.

“The programme has a budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore for the next five years,” the statement said, adding that it marks “a significant increase over the expenditure in the past 30 years”.

The Centre has incurred an overall expenditure of approximately Rs 4,000 crore vis-a-vis Ganga rejuvenation since 1985, it added.

In order to push the efforts for the Ganga’s clean-up, the statement said that the Centre will now take over 100 per cent funding of various activities/ projects under this programme.

Marking a major shift in implementation, the government is focusing on involving people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.

The statement said that, drawing from past lessons, the programme also focuses on involving the states and grassroots- level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions for its implementation.

The programme would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organisations, that is, the State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs).

NMCG will also establish field offices wherever necessary, the statement added.

In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for monitoring projects, comprising a high- level task force chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and assisted by NMCG at the national level, state-level committees chaired by Chief Secretary and assisted by SPMG and district-level committees chaired by the District Magistrate.

In view of the unsatisfactory results of the earlier Ganga Action Plans, the Centre now plans to provide for operation and maintenance of the assets for at least a 10-year period and adopt a PPP/SPV approach for pollution hotspots, the statement said.

In an attempt to bolster enforcement, the Centre also plans to establish a four battalion-strong Ganga Eco-Task Force, a Territorial Army unit. It is also contemplating legislation for checking pollution and protecting the river, the statement added.

Namami Gange Programme stresses on improved coordination mechanisms between the various Ministries/Agencies of the central and state governments.

Major infrastructure investments, which fall under the original mandate of other ministries, like Urban Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Environment Forests and Climate Change (EF&CC), will also additionally be undertaken.

Namami Gange will focus on pollution abatement interventions, namely interception and diversion and treatment of waste water flowing through open drains via bio- remediation/ appropriate in-situ treatment/ use of innovative technologies/ sewage treatment plants (STPs)/ effluent treatment plant (ETPs).

It also aims at rehabilitation and augmentation of existing STPs and immediate short-term measures for arresting pollution at exit points on river front to prevent inflow of sewage, the statement added.

Significantly, the approach is underpinned by socio- economic benefits that the programme is expected to deliver in terms of job creation, improved livelihoods and health benefits to the vast population that is dependent on the river, the statement said.

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