Ganga Council meet today, River Cities, dolphins on the agenda

Harikishan Sharma

The dolphin was declared the national aquatic animal at the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2009.

The National Ganga Council, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is set to meet for first time at Kanpur on Saturday with a proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin, to discuss the concept of ‘River Cities’ and an action plan to provide sewer connection to every household in towns along the Ganga and its tributaries.

The body, which is responsible for cleaning the Ganga, may also ask states to demarcate floodplains and strictly prevent the encroachment and dumping of waste in the same, said sources. Chief ministers of all states along the Ganga are expected to attend the meeting. However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar will not be able to attend, sources said.

While Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi will represent Nitish at the meeting, there is no confirmation about participation of West Bengal.

“So far there is no information about who will represent West Bengal,” said Gajendra Shekhawat, Minister of Jal Shakti, on Friday.

Explained

Much-delayed first meet

The National Ganga Council comprises the chief ministers of 5 states along the Ganga — Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Jharkhand — along with nine Union ministers and the NITI Aayog vice-chairman. The council, which has been tasked with the “protection, prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in River Ganga and its rejuvenation to its natural and pristine condition and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water”, was to meet once a year, but not a single meeting has taken place since its inception.

At the meet, a special programme called ‘Project Dolphin’, along the lines of Project Tiger, may be cleared to enhance the population of dolphins, a source said.

The dolphin was declared the national aquatic animal at the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2009. According to an official report, the Gangetic dolphin is among the four freshwater dolphins found across the world.

The council may ask states and the HRD Ministry to promote river conservation in school education and related activities in colleges.

To effectively utilise the sewerage network constructed under the Namami Gange programme, an action plan may be approved at the meeting to provide the sewer connection to all households on priority basis in towns along Ganga and its tributaries, said the sources. A proposal to extend the programme beyond 2020, may also approved, they said.

Sources said the Prime Minister will also review projects being implemented under Namami Gange. The focus of the discussion will be on projects related to domestic sewage and industrial effluents. The ‘Namami Gange’ was approved on May 13, 2015 to rejuvenate river Ganga and its tributaries and a total amount of Rs. 20,000 crore allocated for this project to be spent over the next five years, till 2020.

According to sources, the council will also discuss the concept of River Cities based on the urban river management plans to be prepared by the respective states