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  India   Politics  27 Mar 2017  Only human: As a person, Ganga has a better chance

Only human: As a person, Ganga has a better chance

Published : Mar 27, 2017, 3:01 am IST
Updated : Mar 27, 2017, 6:35 am IST

Giving the Ganga and the Yamuna the status of living persons could be the best way to revive the rivers.

Unseemly sight: Devotees offer prayers to the Ganga unmindful of a mound of filth.
 Unseemly sight: Devotees offer prayers to the Ganga unmindful of a mound of filth.

We have called our rivers Maa (mother) for ages and Narendra Modi, standing for election in 2014, informed the Ganga in Varanasi that her woes were about to end as her long-sought son (himself) had arrived.

Maa Ganga ensured success for her “son”, but three years down the road, the Ganga’s woes are nowhere near ending.

In this context, the March 20 order passed by Justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh of the Uttarakhand High Court, giving the Ganga and the Yamuna and their tributaries the status of legal persons and living entities, with all ensuing rights and responsibilities, is a welcome step. This is the second time (the first was the Wanganui in New Zealand) that a river has been so recognised.

Whether this judicial action will tilt the balance in favour of our rivers only time will tell.

The Ganga and Yamuna Action Plans (GAP and YAP) began in 1984 and 1994 respectively. Detailed plans were drawn up, large sums of money were invested and spent and yet both rivers have over the years gone from bad to worse.

So when Mr Modi as Prime Minister launched the Namami Gange, with a large kitty of `20,000 crore, hopes were obviously raised.

Uma Bharati, in-charge of the Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry, started with a bang. When she organised a highly-attended ‘Ganga Manthan’ (meeting of minds on the Ganga) and declared aviral (ceaseless) and nirmal (pure) dhara (flow) as the key objectives, it seemed that “achhe din” (happy days) for the rivers in the country were indeed in the offing.  

But soon, as finer details of the Namami Gange Plan started to emerge, it seemed that the mandarins tasked with the job had learnt little, if anything, from the failures of both the Ganga and Yamuna action plans. Old wine in old bottles was sought to be delivered.

The fundamental truth about rivers, that they flow unhindered (aviralta) from their source to the seas, which had been much emphasised at the Ganga Manthan, was soon dumped in favour of planning expensive sewage treatment plants, ornamentation (urban river fronts) and turning rivers into commercial entities (waterways projects).

Probably much of this was to justify the allocation of the large budget for the Namami Gange programme. Now the same Ms Bharati now seeks an extension of time to deliver her promise of a rejuvenated Ganga.

With it being ‘business as usual’ with the Namami Gange programme, comes the Uttarakhand verdict.

Will the state of Uttarakhand and the people in charge of the Namami Gange at the Centre respond favourably to the urgings of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers — now made in person — and begin to sincerely achieve the unhindered flow of the rivers currently curtailed by the existing, underway, and planned projects on the latter, ensure strict protection to their flood plains, and prohibit any (solid and liquid) polluting influence to degrade their water quality?

Let us not forget that the Supreme Court, since the early 1990s, and more recently, the National Green Tribunal, has continued to grapple with the woes affecting both rivers, with little success.

So, what gives us renewed hope that anything will change now?

Well, previously, it was public spirited activists bemoaning the rivers’ tragic state, but now it will be the rivers themselves in the person of Uttarakhand’s Advocate General who will do the needful.

Manoj Misra is convener, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

Tags: varanasi, pm modi, ganga