Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga
Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga

By 2020, no untreated water will flow into River Ganga: DG NMCG Rajiv Ranjan Mishra

By Ravi Khandelwal | Updated: Sep 17, 2018 15:07 IST

New Delhi, [India] Sept 17 (ANI): The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), under its Namami Gange Programme is confident about accomplishing its task of rejuvenating and conserving the mighty river Ganga by 2020. Several projects have been completed and many are ongoing, which would help stop the flow of thousands of million litres per day (MLD) of industrial effluents and untreated domestic sewage into 2500-km-long river, which passes through several cities, towns and villages. The contribution of industrial pollution, volume-wise, is about 20 per cent but due to its toxic and non- biodegradable nature, this has much greater significance.
In an exclusive interview to ANI, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga, said since the launch of Namami Gange Programme, many pro-active steps have been taken to clean up the river, which boasts cultural, religious and economic significance.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Q. The government took a major initiative by launching `Namami Gange Programme' to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, rejuvenate and conserve the River Ganga. What have we achieved in the past four years?
A. We have taken up more than 220 projects out of which 64 have already been completed, while several are under execution. If you look at sewerage sector, we are implementing 106 projects. Out of these 28 are already complete and most of the other projects are under execution. We have to call tenders for only 7 projects. Hence, most of the projects are either at advanced stage of completion or are likely to be over in 2018 or 2019. So, we are on track and a large number of projects are on ground which we expect to be complete in the next two years.
Q. The river is passing through many big cities that push sewage into Ganga. What were the major hurdles faced while cleaning it?
A. It is a very challenging project and the first thing we did was to have a clear mapping of all the towns along the banks of the river. Earlier, we were able to do these in a piecemeal approach - one town, two towns. But now we clearly know that within five kilometres of both sides of the river how many towns are there - its 97 towns. Similarly, we have also identified more than 4,500 villages. After identification of these, we tried to find what is the most polluting element for each of these towns? We have that data. If its sewerage, then what quantity of sewerage is being generated, how much is being generated and what is the existing capacity? We have done all that. Similarly, there are industrial clusters also like in Kanpur we have tanneries. Along the Ganga we have other industrial clusters like paper and pulp industry, distilleries, sugar and textiles which may cause pollution.
We have got projects to improve the situation for each of these clusters. I can give you the details about Kanpur. We have almost 400 tanneries in Kanpur and the effluent of these tanneries pollute the river through drains. So, now we have taken up a Common Effluent Treatment Plant in a very integrated manner. The present CETP existing there does not function very well and has been a cause of concern for more than two decades. Finally, we have been able to find a solution under this mission and then we also have sufficient finances available to intervene. We are trying to construct a CETP with chrome recovery, proper conveyance and also a pilot ZLD, because ultimately we have to go into that doctrine.
Q. Has the government given any strict instructions to these industries like the tanneries in Kanpur?
A. What has happened, we have done the inventory of all these industries. We call them grossly polluting industries. With the help of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) we have given them a very clear target of effluent standards. We have also set up a system where we do a very thorough inspection of all these industries every year. And, we are not only dependent on the pollution control boards. We have involved 12 institutions like IITs, NITs and NEERI, which are expert institutions. They also bring a kind of neutral domain and lot of credibility in their inspection which we are getting done through them. As a result of inspection, if we find anyone not complying with their standards, we immediately issue them show cause notice or closure and many of these industries have been closed. If they improve, meet the standard, they can be reopened.
In the last two years, there is a lot of improvement in compliance. We are also trying to put online effluent quality monitoring so that manual tampering is not possible. Whatever quality of effluent quality is coming out of the industry it will be visible online to us, so we are trying to set up that kind of comprehensive monitoring centre to check effluent quality of industries as well as those of sewerage treatment plants.
Q. Municipal sewerages are also responsible for pollution in the Ganga. Are there any plans to increase the capacity of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in all major cities and towns?
A. We have done the entire analyses and found that municipal sewage causes 70 per cent of the pollution in the river. A number of STPs (Sewerage Treatment Plants) were constructed previously also. So, very scientifically we have gone city by city, town by town. We have assessed how much is the sewerage generation. What is the existing capacity. And then we have identified the gap that how much additional capacity we have to create.
So, if I tell you the overall picture of River Ganga, when we started this mission in 2014-15, we saw that the total generation was 3000 MLD. And, against 3000 MLD the existing treatment capacity was less than 1400 MLD. We put a professional agency to visit all existing STPs for condition assessment and found that out of 1400 MLD, some 700 MLD require repair and were not in working condition. Under Namami Gange Programme, the strategy is to rehabilitate the old STP then we are creating new capacity. At present 106 new projects are there so that we can cater to the needs of future.
And, when we were building STPs. This we are not doing only for the present need but we are looking at for the next 15 years targeting the population of 2035.
Hence, whatever capacity is required for a city we have assessed that and projects are being taken to meet that need. We have already taken up projects for adding something like 2000 MLD additional capacity. Think of 1400 MLD, plus 2000 MLD. The target for 2035 is 3,600 MLD. Keeping that target in mind we are constructing these STPs and also making provisions of operational maintenance of these STPs. If you simply construct and leave it, then the local government may not maintain it properly, and these STPs will not work, as we have seen in the past. So, the project cost includes cost of construction, plus operation and maintenance for the next 15 years.
Q. River Ganga passes through five states. What is the response of local administration in the Clean Ganga Mission?
A. It is very challenging and unless everyone joins, it will not be possible. Cleaning of towns is primarily the state subject. In fact, it is not even a state but the urban local bodies have to take care of it. Now, the challenge is so much and their financial condition and capacity is under constraint that is why this kind of mission like Namami Gange helps them.
We also decided that in earlier programmes, Government of India was not funding them completely. Centre used to fund 70 per cent whereas 30 per cent came from the state. Now, under Namami Gange we are giving them 100 per cent funds. We are also helping them in making of the detailed project report (DPR). But the construction work, the tendering is all handled by the state governments. Like we have National Mission for Clean Ganga, we have set up similar kind of project organizations in each of the states. We call them State Mission for Clean Ganga. There project directors are there, we work with them and there are number of executing agencies like Jal Nigam or Urban Development Corporations of different states and they work together. It is that kind of team which is expediting all the work.
Q. Millions of pilgrims who come to bath at various Ghats are also responsible for polluting the River. What steps have been taken to keep these ghats clean and spread awareness among the visitors?
A. As we all know this river has so much of cultural, religious and economic importance. People visit this river like no other river in the world. Lakhs of people visit every day. So ghats are very important, the kind of amenities you provide for the pilgrims or even local people, the kind of sanitation facilities which is available plus the kind of lifestyle that you can give on ghats is also very important. In some of the places we have developed river fronts like we have connected few ghats. Some of the major cities like Patna, six kilometers of river front has been developed. Other places, at this point of time we have got 115 ghat projects and more than 50 crematoriums, which are to be modernalised. In addition, we have also brought into focus some of the major iconic ghats like Varanasi, Haridwar, Mathura, Vrindavan, Kanpur, Allahabad. We have also take up projects for regular cleaning up of these ghats through agencies. Along with this, we have also encouraged local people to join us as volunteer and clean these ghats. Unless there is some sensitivity and awareness that these are our ghats, it is very difficult for the government to do it. We have also put some machines for cleaning the surface of the water because floating solid waste also sometimes creates a lot of inconvenience for the visitors. These machines are working on some of the important ghats in Kanpur, Patna, Allahabad and Haridwar.
Q. The government also laid emphasis on developing model villages on the banks of River Ganga. How is the Ganga Gram project helping in keeping the river clean?
A. In all our earlier missions, generally focus has been on the cities because cities contribute more in pollution. But Namami Gange is one mission where we are not leaving any area untouched. We have concentrated on all the villages along the banks of river. We have more than 4,500 villages which are on the banks of the River Ganga. We are working with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation which is looking at the Swacch Bharat Mission Gramin and under Namami Gange Programme we have funded them for making these villages open defecation free on priority. They will be doing it for all the villages in the country but we has asked them to do it on priority for villages next to Ganga.
We have taken some of these villages to be developed as model villages called Ganga Gram. For Ganga Gram, the idea is to do some scientific solid and liquid waste management. Afforestation is another component. Also, if a village has any particular kind of handicraft or the craftsmen are there, we help them develop it further and improve cultural aspect and promote tourism.
Q. Your department also laid stress on afforestation on the banks of River Ganga. How does it help to rejuvenate and conserve the River?
A. Namami Gange is perhaps the first program on river rejuvenation in the country which has looked at afforestation as a major strategy. Right in the beginning, we engaged with the Forest Research Institute and got a very detailed project report made through them. It has become a model report because now Ministry of Environment and Forest is also looking at it very seriously to take it as model and help it from the CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) fund also. At present what we have done is that as per project report we are focusing on three types of plantation. One is the natural river escape - along the river. And then we are looking at the agricultural river escape and also urban river escape. It includes right kind of plantation, species and right kind of the land where plantation can be done. This mission has been supporting the forest department of all the five states for the last three years.
Q. Despite all efforts by the government in the past few years, the River is still facing issues concerning pollution flowing into it which becomes an issue of criticism. How important is the need to have awareness among the masses to keep the holy River clean?
A. As you rightly say and you have also identified this is a huge challenge. And the success lies in planning it very well. There are over 100 urban local bodies along the river. There are 4,500 villages along the river. We have got complete thing mapped in and then we know the requirement of each of the town and accordingly the projects are being prepared. We are working with the states as this cannot be done only by the Government of India mission. We need to gear up our organization in every state.
We also took few policy decisions which are very unique and first time in the waste water management these decisions are being taken. We are going for PPP in sewerage treatment plants and we have brought the concept of hybrid annuity model, which will benefit in the long run. If you simply keep on constructing projects and leave it to the local body they may not have the capacity to run it and that's what happened in the past.
So, in all the major projects now which we have taken in the last one and a half year, we are only paying 40 per cent for construction and the remaining 60 per cent the contractor will get once he runs the plant, meets our standard. This way automatically performance is guaranteed.
And then we have tried to reduce risk so as to ensure good response. We have successfully implemented 7 projects on hybrid annuity model and 14 more are in the pipeline. This took little long in the beginning being tried for the first time and we had to do a lot of analysis but all these projects are now in full swing. We want to further speed up.
All have aspiration to see this river very pure, clean and rejuvenated, but you look at afforestation - it's a very time consuming. But the right thing is to plan well. In the last two years we have completed 28 major projects on the sewerage treatment plant. In Uttarakhand, all the 31 projects are going on -- 15 have already been completed while remaining 16 will soon be completed by March or June next year. In Uttarakhand, all the sewerage treatment plants will be ready by next year.
In Uttar Pradesh, out of 32 projects, 8 have been completed. One of the symbols of Ganga pollution, Kanpur has infamous Sisamau drain which produces 140 MLD of sewer to the river. We have been able to tap 80 MLD out of it and the remaining 60 would be over in October this year. So, we are progressing, but we appeal to everyone to contribute. We have also set up a Clean Ganga Fund. You, me and everyone wants to do something for this river. Often we may not know how to do it so there is an option for Clean Ganga Fund and we are trying to create a huge volunteer force, Ganga Praharis with the Wildlife Institute. We have Ganga Vichar Mancha, we have created a force of ex-servicemen calling them Ganga Task Force who are working in Allahabad, Kanpur and Varanasi. There is a cadre of Ganga Mitra which is coming up. But, yes whatever we do we have to feel that we have to do much more because this is such a pious river, and a huge challenge always lies ahead.
We have started moving in a right direction, we have picked up speed and by 2020 our target not to allow untreated sewage water go into river Ganga would be achieved. (ANI)