Namami Gange Project

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Context: The ‘Namami Gange’ project’s holistic approach brings together public policy, technology intervention and community participation.

GS III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation. 

  • The total length of the Ganga is about 2,510 km. The river basin is bounded by the Himalayas on the north, by the Aravalli on the west, by the Vindhyas and Chhotanagpur plateau on the south and by the Brahmaputra Ridge on the east.
  • The river is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. From time immemorial, Ganga has been the holiest river of the Hindus. It is thus also a culturally important river in India.
  • Ganga basin is the largest river basin in India constituting 26% of the country's area and supports nearly 43% of India s population.

The course of River Ganga:

Ganga River System


States Drainage area(km)
Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh 294,364
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh 198,962
Bihar and Jharkhand 143,961
Rajasthan 112,490
West Bengal 71,485
Haryana 34,341
Himachal Pradesh 4,317
Delhi 1,484
Total 861,404


Causes of Impurity of river Ganga: 

There may be many causes for the impurity of the 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:

  • The mixing of Sewage disposal and Industrial waste in the River Ganga causes pollution.
  • 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 that 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 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 the river Ganga can possibly cause cancer.
  • A study conducted by the Uttaranchal Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) categorized 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.
Namami Gange Project
  • Namami Gange is an Integrated Conservation Mission with an initial outlay of Rs 20,000 Crore launched in 2014.
  • The objective of the program was to reduce pollution of the basin by adopting a river-basin approach for comprehensive planning and management and also to maintain minimum ecological flow in the river, conserve and rejuvenate it.
  • The Vision for Ganga Rejuvenation includes restoring the Aviral Dhara (Continuous Flow ) and Nirmal Dhara ( Unpolluted Flow ).
  • The project covers 8 river basin states. Under the project, Countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, etc. have shown interest in collaborating with India for Ganga rejuvenation.
  • In 2016, the government issued a notification to authorise the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to exercise powers under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 

Pillars of the Clean Ganga Project

  1. Creating capacity for sewage treatment across basin states.
  2. Development of riverfront, ghat modernization, etc.
  3. Cleaning of river surface by collecting floating solid waste.
  4. Conservation of river biodiversity.
  5. Afforestation across the basin states.
  6. Public outreach to encourage community participation through various events, workshops, seminars, conferences, rallies, campaigns, exhibitions, shram daan, cleanliness drives, competitions, plantation drives, etc.
  7. Industrial Effluent monitoring by real-time effluent monitoring stations.
  8. Ganga Gram Making villages along the river, open-defecation free by encouraging the construction of toilets. This is being implemented by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

National Ganga Council

  • The project is being headed by National Ganga Council that replaced the National Ganga River Basin Authority as the apex body for directing the rejuvenation project. 
  • The National Ganga Council is chaired by Prime Minister.
  • The National Ganga Council is formed under the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986.
  • It has been given overall responsibility for the superintendence of pollution prevention and rejuvenation of River Ganga Basin, including Ganga and its tributaries.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) acts as an implementation arm of the National Ganga Council.
  • NMCG was established in the year 2011 as a registered society.
  • It has a two-tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee.
  • At the state level, there are State Level Committees and State Programme Management Groups (Implementation arm of the State Level Committees)
  • The aims and objectives of NMCG are:
    • To ensure effective control of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral coordination for comprehensive planning and management.
    • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

Financing of the project

World Bank is assisting in the abatement of pollution in the river at an estimated cost of Rs.7000 crore. Further, the costs for sewerage treatment are to be borne by the centre and the states in the ratio of 70:30. In addition to the Clean Ganga Fund was instituted to mobilize resources as well as bring innovation and technical know-how for the project.

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).

Significance of Namami Gange Plan

  • The river is central to the sustenance of nearly 43% of the country's population. It aids in agriculture, fisheries, provides water for domestic as well as industrial use.
  • With rising urbanization, the river has become more exposed to pollution– Only one-third of the sewage that is generated along the basin gets treated while the rest finds its way into the river.
  • Nearly 20% of the toxic pollutants that flow into the river, come from industries.
  • Further sources of pollution include agricultural runoff, animal carcasses, floral offerings, plastic waste and open defecation along the river.
  • This has given rise to water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and a severe shortage of clean drinking water.
  • The river is also undergoing ecological changes induced by the construction of dams in the upper course that has restricted flow down the river stream.
  • Namami Gange provides for a river-basin approach that allows basin states to cooperate in the cleaning of the river.
  • River ecology is also damaged by illegal sand mining along the river bed this adversely impacts the carrying capacity of the river and makes it prone to flooding.
The key achievements under the Namami Gange program
  1. Creating Sewerage Treatment Capacity:
    • NMCG officials regularly conducted surprise checks on sewage treatment plants (STPs) and issued notices/directions to authorities wherever required.
    • NMCG also issued directives regulating mining activities on river banks, prohibiting encroachment and regulating activities like the immersion of idols.
    • Unrestricted flow of sewage and industrial effluents into the Ganga has adversely affected its “nirmalta” (purity).
    • Previous half-hearted attempts to address this were marred by faulty planning, leading to inadequate STP infrastructure, lack of proper maintenance and frequent technological breakdowns. Hence, novel technical interventions were the need of the hour.
    • NMCG adopted cutting-edge technologies like satellite imagery, remote sensing and geospatial solutions which facilitated real-time monitoring of pollutants in Ganga and its tributaries. Scientific forecast models were deployed for designing new sewage treatment infrastructure.
    • As a first, a hybrid annuity model was adopted for project implementation, thereby entrusting long-term responsibility for operations and maintenance to the project executors.
    • A total of 342 projects worth over Rs 29,000 crore have been sanctioned to date, out of which 145 are completed.
    • Given Ganga’s central role in cultural rituals and rites, 123 ghats and 36 crematoriums have been constructed so far, while the Ganga Avalokan Museum has been set up at Chandighat in Haridwar.
  2. 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 have been initiated.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 have been initiated.
    • 5 Bio-Diversity centre’s at Dehradun, Narora, Allahabad, Varanasi, and Barrackpore has been developed for the restoration of identified priority species.
  5. 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 have been executed as per the Detailed Project Report prepared by Forest Research Institute, Dehradun for a period of 5 years (2016-2021) at a project cost of Rs.2300 Crores. Work has been commenced in 7 districts of Uttarakhand for medicinal plants.
  6. Public Awareness:
    • To encourage community participation in cleaning the river, an awareness campaign is regularly carried out in cities, towns and villages alongside Ganga through a newly-established community force called “Ganga Praharis”.
    • Through them, the government seeks to transform “jal chetna” into “jan chetna” and turn it into a “jal aandolan”.
    • 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 program.
    • 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 program.
  7. Industrial Effluent Monitoring:
    • Real-Time Effluent Monitoring Stations (EMS) have been installed in 572 out of 760 Grossly Polluting Industries (GPIs).
    • Closure notices 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.
  8. 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 the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) for the construction of toilets in 1674 Gram Panchayats of 5 Ganga Basin States. Out of the targeted 15, 27,105 units, MoDWS has completed the construction of 8, 53,397 toilets.

To restore the river’s biodiversity, NMCG is actively collaborating with premier institutes like the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Kolkata and the Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad.

A baseline survey for mapping the biodiversity has been completed and more than 50 per cent of the river now offers high biodiversity value. NMCG, in association with the Ministry of Agriculture, is also promoting organic farming in villages of Uttarakhand (50,000 ha), UP (42,000 ha), Bihar (16,000 ha), Jharkhand (4,500 ha).
A long-term Intensive and Scientific Afforestation Plan is under implementation in the river basin along with the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. So far, 26,764 ha of the area has been covered with local varieties of trees with an expenditure of Rs 337.2 crore.

The integrated “Sangam” strategy is yielding results. The entire stretch of Ganga, spanning around 2,525 km, now has prescribed water-quality standards for bathing (dissolved oxygen is more than 5mg/litre).

Challenges to Cleaning Ganga Mission
  • Large catchment area– that stretches across 26% of the country and covers nearly 11 states. Cleaning the river in its entirety is a difficult task.
  • Slow Implementation – attributable to delays in tendering, non-availability of land, legal issues, pending approvals, etc.
  • No clear blueprint- Supreme Court has also questioned the government for a lack of detailed and feasible plan to address growing pollution in the river.
  • Inadequate staff -The NMCG responsible for the implementation of the program lacks the sanctioned strength and officers also juggle between different roles and duties.
  • Waste Management-Inadequate finances and resources with local bodies cripple their ability to treat sewage produced in cities. This finds its way into the river.
  • Technical and Engineering-Some of the worst polluted stretches of the river are across UP, Kanpur being the worst in terms of Biological Oxygen Demand. Treating the highly toxic sludge requires advanced treatment technology.

Recent Initiative by the government under Namami Gange:

  • Ganga Manthan: a national conference to discuss issues and solutions for cleaning the river.
  • Ganga Taskforce: The 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 the ‘WASH in school’ program. The program includes the implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services in the targeted government schools
Way Forward
  • Sewage treatment -Attracting corporates to operate sewage treatment plants, encouraging composting to reduce waste generation and augmenting finances of local bodies so as to improve their capacity in waste management.
  • Managing rural waste -Incorporating Seechewal model that involves community participation, waste segregation, composting and treatment of waste-water through oxidation. This is a viable model for managing rural waste. Also, encouraging a two-pit solution over septic tanks can help in better management of solid waste.
  • Checking Industrial -effluents Strengthening CPCB for enforcement of pollution norms and encouraging industries to install Common effluent treatment plants. Further, real-time monitoring of effluents is essential for arresting Industrial pollution. Relocating industries from severely polluted stretches is also a need of the hour.
  • Maintaining minimum flows Hydroelectric projects and river-linking projects planned on the basin should be undertaken after a comprehensive basin study and should not impact the flow in the river basin.
  • Promoting sustainable farming practices particularly in terms of fertilizer and pesticide use will help in reducing farm runoffs that pollute the river. Ganga basin must also get priority focus under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana that seeks to promote organic farming.
  • Reclamation, restoration, prevention of encroachment and conservation of wetlands along the Ganges basin will restore the river ecology and also ensure ecosystem services.
  • Involving local communities and forest dwellers in the afforestation programs, which must be suited to the local ecology.
  • Watershed management to promote groundwater recharge so as to reduce the pressure on the river.
  • Encourage tourism across basin states and dedicate a fraction of revenues earned thereof to the namami gange program.
  • Effective and continuous management of waste and measures to ensure minimum discharge in the river are the twin pillars on which the success of the Namami Gange program stands.

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