In a development that further establishes the poor state of the Ganga, an inter-ministerial group (IMG) at the Centre is all set to classify the holy river in the 'C' (poor) category. The categorization is likely to be done in view of a report submitted by IIT-Roorkee which found that in the coming days 84% of the water flow in the river will either be diverted to tunnels or reservoirs because of over 100 hydro-electric power projects proposed on the river in Uttarakhand.

Once these hydro-electric projects come into existence, the river will be left with only 16% of the original flow, the report has observed. Apart from the interrupted flow of the river because of the proposed and under-constructed dams, illegal mining and pollution has also pushed the holy river into the company of highly polluted rivers. The top category (Category A) belongs to those rivers which have uninterrupted flow and negligible pollution. Gradually, the grade depreciates according to the level of pollution and water flow.

The proposed categorization has led to alarm bells ringing among the environmentalists and left the water and river activist enraged. Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh who is also a member of the IMG on issues related to Ganga, while confirming the proposed category for the Ganga, termed the government move as highly unfortunate. The Ganga should be classified as an A-category river and efforts be made to make it pollution-free. One cannot shy away from the responsibility in the name of development,'' Singh said while speaking to TOI on phone from New Delhi.

Singh, in a letter (dated October 28), addressed to chairman of the IMG, BK Chaturvedi, demanded cancellation of dams proposed on the Ganga's tributaries -- Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi. Among the bigger projects that are proposed or are under construction on the Ganga and its tributaries include Kotlibhel, Kotlibhel 1A, Kothlibhel 1B, Bowala Nandprayag, Vishnugad-pipalkoti, Badrinath-Alaknanda, Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Rambara, and Tapovan-Vishnugad. The Loharinagpala, Pala-Maneri and Bhairon Ghati hydro-electric project was cancelled by National Ganga River Basin Authority ( NGRBA). Likewise, the Srinagar project, too, has been stopped since May 30, 2011.

The issue is likely to be raked up at the IMG meeting scheduled on November 2 in New Delhi. According to a note that is likely to be tabled in the meeting, the IIT consortium has suggested 72% of the river to flow freely. The note also speaks of IIT consortium suggesting the government to categorize Ganga at least as a 'B' class river before it is elevated to 'A' class.

Singh said that even the objective of the Ganga river basin management plan is restoration of the wholesomeness of all rivers of the Ganga basin with a particular emphasis on the holy river itself. But that does not seem to translate into reality,'' said Singh, who now plans to call a 'Ganga Sansad' in Garhmukteshwar between November 25 and November 28 to rake up the issue and create awareness among the people.

The proposed 'polluted' tag for the Ganga flies on the face of government which has been claiming to be a harbinger of the river associated with sentiments of scores of people, not only in India but abroad. One of the ambitious projects, the Ganga Action Plan or GAP was launched by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in April 1986 in order to reduce the pollution load on the river. But the efforts to decrease the pollution level in the river became more after spending Rs 901.71 crore. The plan was withdrawn on March 31, 2000. Phase-II of the programme was then approved in stages from 1993 onwards.

Illegal mining along the river too has cast its shadows on the river. In 2011, a Hindu seer Swami Nigamananda Saraswati sat on a fast unto death in protest against the illegal mining in the district of Haridwar. Following his death in June 2011, his ashram leader Swami Shivananda fasted for 11 days starting on November 25, 2011, forcing the Uttarkhand government to ban illegal mining all over Haridwar district. Accordingly, quarrying in the Ganga is proposed to be studied by a special committee which would assess its environmental impacts the river and its nearby areas.

Source: Times of India