By Odimegwu Onwumere
Rivers are symbols of flow of life. That in itself embodies typical resources of spirituality and divinity that establish and sustain virtues of ethical economy of life. With that given statement, the Indian Ganges River comes to mind. A river like Indian Ganges is a life force and source. As such, the need to rejuvenate the Indian Ganges River at Varanasi of India cannot be overemphasized. This is owed to the fact that it is accepted by majority of Indians to be a source of life to them. Indians have said that the river creates revenues for the government through tourism, helps in irrigation from time immemorial, apart from being the central reality of the people’s River of Life.
Over 400 million Indians benefit from the water. Either it serves as a source of drinking water to them or it promotes socio-economic farming community. About 1 millions Hindus in India reverence this river which crisscrosses a length of 1, 568 miles. This river’s implication on life is deep. It brings about not only social and economic interests and hopes for peasants but also enhances dominant ritualistic and religious affinities. Devotees of interest call it Ganga Ma.
Presently, the worry among the international committee and Indians of today is that the river is not only soiled with dirt like plastic and garbage and toxin, but is also telescoping the 70 per cent that the Gangotri glacier supplies during the dry season. That way, the danger of shriveling at somewhat 40 yards annually has become inevitable.
Indian authorities said that the Ganges is on the menu of the world’s most endangered rivers in the world. The World Wildlife Fund knew about this daring concern. At a point the river was rising per second, experts feared that it could hamper the settlement of over 25 villages situated along its bank. This suggests that inability to dredge or evacuate dumps in the river will likely trouble the natural water ways and in turn cause sporadic flooding and misfortune to the population area.
Indians, including the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Shatrughan Singh, have shown fear that the situation with Indian Ganges River is agitated by water released from Narora dam and heavy rainfall from the hills. Roshan Jacob has cautioned the management officials to be watchful and be on their sentinel to budge the people. There was the rivers’ level of 113m. Specialists said that it is merely one meter beneath the peril blotch of 114m.
Ganges River Importance
Indians are afraid that the river Ganges is receding and therefore producing transitory supply of water due to the disappearing glaciers. Many Indians are worried of what will become of Hindus if the water is no more.
Mahesh Mehta, an environmental lawyer apparently has shown a great concern to the river that he has been suing some dubious companies that have used the once sacred Ganges as a place for dumping not only solid wastes, but also toxins, to court. Mehta is afraid of the melting glaciers and has been shouting above his voice that Indians should change their ways of soiling the river else all the facets of their livelihood are under jeopardy.
Bhadra Mishra, an engineer and director of the Varanasi-based Sankat Mochan Foundation, an organization that promotes for the safeguarding of the Ganges reportedly said that Indians are becoming imperiled sort of Hindus due to the ill-fated nature of the Ganges.
As if the people’s fears of the situation of the river are not enough, the United Climate report announced that by 2030, the Himalayan glaciers that nourish unswervingly into the Ganges could disappear due to the increasing temperatures. There is apprehension in India regarding the Ganges drying up the same way the Indus and Saraswati rivers dried up without literal reason. A situation in which the Indians centred their history many hundreds of years ago before Ganges could happen again.
By then, the much heralded climate change was not fad, but the modern Pakistan which used to be a fertile land turned to a sudden desert as the river stopped flowing into the Indian Ocean before it later dried up entirely. It was then that all eyes of the Northern India and its cultures shifted gears to the Ganges and evolved it into the spiritual significance it is today on the world map.
It is being reasoned that if the Ganges eventually dries up, Indians will be more frightened that they may be heading for the worse, something worst than the desert they experienced when the Indus and Saraswati dried up thousands of years ago. The population’s worry is that it is yet unknown what caused the Indus and Saraswati to dry up. But now the Ganges River is being aided to empty out by untamed ubiquitous human attitude which is causing harm to the ecosystem. By making the once revered Ganges a cesspit, messed up of fecal waste, semi-cremated bodies, and other anomalies, the likelihood to de-river the flow is imminent.
Army was also seeking to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to clean river Ganga, through setting up task force under a retired Lieutenant General to carry out the project efficiently. The Army even went as far as submitting a pitch to the Government to set up a task force under a retired Lt. General with a team of 40 officers to handle the situation.
According to The Economic Times, “The Territorial Army battalions of the Army are already engaged in the task of preserving ecology and environment and have been taking part in projects to spread greenery in barren areas such as the Bhati Mines area in Delhi.”
Hope is hope and when it is assured, life is renewed. As such, hope for change came the way of Indians as four ministers held the first meeting in June this year, 2014. Put up with is the resolution that cleaning the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Ganga project and the Road map on Ganga cleanup mission would be presented in front of House session in July. Attention got focused on practical approaches than speculations.
Water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation minister, Uma Bharati, said in the meeting chaired by Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari that, “Season, site and rainfall specific plans for different rivers will be readied. A group of secretaries will work out a detailed plan for each river…We will be incorporating ideas as and when required. It is not that we are not prioritizing other rivers but we will have to create a model first which can be replicated elsewhere.”
Gadkari said, “To undertake dredging activities of up to 45 meters from Varanasi to Hoogly, the ministry of environment and forests will evaluate the ecological impact of the proposal and will give us the report….We have started technical evaluation of barrages that we intend to set up at a distance of every 100 km and use it for connectivity. It will also be utilized for goods and passenger transportation.”
Union Minister of States (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan looking freshened-up illustrated praise on Dainik Jagran in a different forum. This is sequel to the effort the dude has taken to clean River Ganga. The efforts of Jagran was taken as dignifying which would keep the river pollution-free after the exercise for undertaking a gracious attempt to clean River Ganges in order to render it pollution-free.
As the most priority of Indian government which has lingered for years, Germany showed interest to offer her expertise for the Ganges clean-up project. This interest was coming 27yrs after India started attracting the world’s attention to clean-up the messed up river.
Not even the cash from the World Bank in 2012 has enhanced the quick execution of the programme on the river regarded as one of the world’s 20 largest rivers. The Indian Government requested $3 billion (2.4 billion euros) from Israel to restore the Ganges status.
“Israel NewTech, an initiative led by the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, is matching Israeli clean-tech companies with Indian partners to tender solutions for the Ganges,” said Deutsche Welle. “The Indian government aims to have no untreated municipal sewage or industrial runoff to enter the Ganges by 2020. Yet, according to Oded Distel, head of Israel NewTech, cleaning the Ganges is more like a 20-year mission.”
“It’s a huge project. It combines technological aspects and elements from waste water treatment and water management up to irrigation,” Distel said. During dry season, “it becomes more a kind of canal for waste water rather than a real living river.”
“The irrigation business in India these days is above $0.5 billion a year, which in the next two or three years, will reach $1.5 billion – just micro irrigation,” NaanDanJain director Amnon Ofen, said. According to Deutsche Welle, he added that this would be the reason why foreign companies are based in India.
Heiko Warnken, head of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, supposedly said on the tangential of a colloquium: “Rejuvenation and cleaning of the river Ganga is one of the top priorities of Indian government. We are now just in the phase where we are going to see how we are going to assist the Indian government in this important endeavour…We will soon have a mission who will be coming to India with experts from Germany. We have also cleaned the river Rhine in Germany. We will see how we can assist in the Ganga mission.”
The New Look
The government of India had on June 6, 2014 announced that the concept to develop Ganga is not only for it not to dry, also it is to sustain it as an economic attraction of the state in the areas of transportation, fisheries tourism and hydro-power generation. An estimate of Rs 6,000 crore would be expended in its first stage which the government had promised that it would put every mercenary in place in making sure that the feat was achieved.
The government looked at the ‘new’ Ganga with the plan that it would be a major waterway for transport and tourism, which would interconnect with the Varanasi and Hooghly through river going boats. It also looks at redecorating the major banks with allure and constructing 11 multi-purpose terminals, which would comprise one at Patna. Not limiting its strength here, the government might lengthen its effort to Allahabad. If this is achieved, specialists have said that the government must have to achieve 1,600km broad of the river.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Rather than dollars, we are more interested in knowledge and expertise of World Bank. Dr Kim agreed, in addition said World Bank can be our information bank. We want ideas from the World Bank not only on mass production but also on production by masses, which will benefit our workforce,” Modi tweeted.
At the meeting, “We talked about the importance of scale and the need to work on a scale that inspires people and positively transforms their lives. We live in a world where speed matters. Quick execution is essential. Speeding up World Bank projects will surely increase the impact.”
The river Ganga is revered in the Hindu culture. People from Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Roorkee are working with expectation to see a ‘new’ Ganges emerge. It was observable that, “Rs 1,825 crore was spent in cleaning the Ganga between 1985 and 2009 in phases of the Ganga Action Plan, or GAP as it is popularly called. Suresh Prabhu, who as union environment minister in 1998-99 had implemented phase-II of GAP, recalls: “The plan was appropriately named. There were so many gaps in the scheme and what is needed now is essentially a comprehensive approach.”
David Graham of UK’s Newcastle University, had done all-embracing studies on river Ganga and, graphs out the precedence for Modi Sarkar: “Solutions include routing wastes elsewhere, improving waste treatment prior to release, and motivating ‘social engineering’ to change behaviours and attitudes related to water quality in the river… Delaying waste inputs, by providing portable toilets at habited locations, are an easy and immediate solution, but this does not completely solve the problem.”
“Already, the government has been contemplating a massive drive to discourage people from open defecation along the river. But Graham is not fully convinced of its long-term utility,” the source added.
The hope to regain the value of dredged and free flowing Ganges River is back and the potential to continue to sustain and advance the river of life is increased. What one can obviously learn from the team of worry, action and connection with the wider world is that development can happen when it is considered and approached.
a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.