PM chairs first Ganga meeting, calls for quick clean-up


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday chaired the first meeting of the newly-formed Ganga River Basin Authority (GRBA) and called for accelerated steps to clean up the river, revered as sacred by many Indians.

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The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours at the Prime Minister’s Residence, discussed a slew of proposals for effective cleaning up of the river, including the involvement of international financial institutions like the World Bank.

The meeting was attended by Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and chief ministers of states through which the Ganga flows — Uttarakhand’s Ramesh Pokhriyal, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar and representatives of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The prime minister emphasized on an all-embracing strategy to coordinate all possible steps to clean up the Ganga, sources said.

“How to keep the Ganga clean, as it is a national river, and how the cities and towns situated on its banks, can be systematised, were among the issues which were discussed,” Pokhriyal told reporters after the meeting.

The GRBA, which was approved in February this year, is mandated to address the problem of pollution in the river in a holistic and comprehensive manner by taking into account water quality, minimum ecological flows, sustainable access and other issues.

Concepts like polluter-pays principle for the industrial clusters along the river and the signing of the national memorandums of understanding with the central, state and urban local bodies for sewage treatment were also discussed.

The National Environment Protection Authority has submitted a draft proposal that envisages industrial clusters, which release their effluents into Ganga, paying for cleaning the river. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has also proposed a Rs.1,360 crore project for revamping sewage treatment.