River Ganga plays an important role not only in the lives of Hindus but also the entire country and is revered like a goddess. The massive river has been the source of livelihood and has helped industrialization. Sadly, the river has been contaminated by loads of toxic wastes which have been unceremoniously dumped in to it. With booming population and industries, the combined weight of the problem has choked the river. Nevertheless, successive govts have nursed big ambitions of cleaning the river but without much success. The project somehow was confined to paper and never percolated into action on the ground. Many Govts have proposed programs and missions, billions of rupees were disbursed but there was no significant change on the ground.
Cleaning river Ganga was one of the topmost priorities in Modi govt which came to power in 2014. Subsequently, the project was sanctioned a whopping 2000 crores and water resources Minister Uma Bharati was made in charge of the mission. Unfortunately, just like the past failures, the project remained a distant dream when it came to application. The minister was heavily criticized for a lackluster approach to the problem. In the midst of this process, Nitin Gadkari was given the additional charge of the water resources and he was expected to revive the Namami Ganga mission in a spectacular fashion.
Nitin Gadkari is known as the ‘go getter minister’ and is widely praised for his implementation of the National Highway Expansion project. His ability to overcome roadblocks or interdepartmental hurdles and perform has been his trademark. His style of functioning was expected to overcome the rampant inaction that had plagued the mission and steer it into its successful conclusion.
Gadkari has taken certain decisive steps which have fast tracked the mission to its fruitful outcome in 2019. Gadkari has envisioned Namami Ganga mission to be an inclusive program which also would include public awareness, improvement of sanitation and waste management, industrial regulation and sustainable development.Speaking at the ANI-organised India Infracon 2018 conclave, Gadkari assured that by March 2019, more than 80-90 percent of river Ganga will be cleaned and in this process he had taken a few laudable steps.
After assuming office, Gadkari had immediately constituted a special task force comprising of personnel from overlapping ministries such as water resources, urban development and drinking water and sanitation. This provided the necessary foundation, cleared roadblocks and interlinked various divisions of the project.
Gadkari signed a tripartite agreement with the private sector in establishing two sewage plants in Haridwar and Varanasi. He has set up the projects according to a brilliant Hybrid Annuity Model where payments are linked with the performance of the sewage treatment plants. This model has been successful in other projects and is expected to be successfully replicated here.
The govt is also working on 187 projects for Ganga cleaning. Out of these, 47 projects have been completed successfully and the remaining projects will begin by March.
Work in the direction of creating public awareness is also simultaneously underway. In 4500 villages, saplings were planted along the banks of the river Ganga. The saplings are to be geo tagged so their progress can be maintained on a real time basis.
Mr Gadkari did a master stroke of securing public private partnership (PPP) to clean river Ganga. His efforts have secured rich dividends in the form of many private and even global players investing in the same. In UK alone, he obtained investments worth about 500 crores and many industrialists like Hinduja or Vedanta have chipped in.
These all inclusive steps taken by Nitin Gadkari have resulted into achievable targets by 2019.
Although it was a collective failure of past administrations, there was a lot of hope from Uma Bharati. Nevertheless, the cabinet reshuffle can be touted as a boon considering Gadkari was given this task. With work speeded, targets set and awareness created, it seems that Nitin Gadkari will help to finally realize the long cherished dream of a clean river Ganga.