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| Last Updated:02/07/2020

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Diversion of water must stop to curb Ganga's pollution: Report

NEW DELHI: Grappling with the mammoth task of cleaning the Ganga, the water resources ministry has flagged how "heavy abstraction" of water has become a key concern in its efforts to rejuvenate the river at a time when it has already moved to handle pollution through multiple measures.

The ministry made a detailed presentation over the issue in the Prime Minister's Office early this month, flagging how water is diverted from Ganga to meet demands of agricututre, industries, domestic consumption and power generation through 784 dams, 66 barrages, 92 weirs and 45 lift irrigation schemes on the country's national river and its tributaries.


In its 86-page presentation - Challenges and Required Interventions - the ministry also made a case for maintaining minimum flow of water in Ganga as the river has a self-cleansing ability, provided it has uninterrupted flow of water round the year. Uninterrupted flow of water is possible only if the river gets its ecological flow (e-flow). The e-flow of a particular river refers to quality, quantity and timing of water flows required to maintain the functions, processes and resilience of aquatic eco-systems.



The PMO was also briefed over the differences of opinion of two ministries over the issue of construction of dams on Ganga and its tributaries. While the water resources ministry does not want any new dam so that Ganga gets its e-flow, the environment ministry has recently conditionally allowed five new dams on its tributaries in Uttarakhand and filed an affidavit in this regard in the Supreme Court.

"You cannot clean the river only by setting up sewage treatment plants and asking industries to stop discharging untreated water. If you don't deal with abstraction of water, the Rs 20,000 crore plan would go down the drain the way the Centre had lost nearly Rs 5,000 crore in the past," an official said.

Even a letter by water resources minister Uma Bharti to environment minister Prakash Javadekar failed to cut the deadlock. Though the environment ministry has put a condition while specifying how much minimum water should be enough to maintain uniterrupted flow in Ganga, the water ministry does not appear to be convinced.

"To take care of irrigation needs of farmers, the government has planned to promote drip irrigation and other methods for optimum utilisation of water under its 'per drop, more crop' goal," said the official.