“Would you please tell us that is it correct that more than Rs 5,000 crore has been spent on Ganga in making it worse from bad. We don’t want to know whether you have allotted this quantum of money to the states or have spent it yourself.
“Out of the 2,500 km stretch of the river Ganga, tell us one place, where the condition of the river has improved.”
These were the angry words from a visibly exasperated chairperson of the National Green Tribunal while slamming the central government for its utter failure to clean river Ganga.
The NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar on Friday asked the government to “tell us one place” where the Ganga was clean adding that despite spending huge sums, the situation had gone from bad to worse.
Justice Kumar minced no words in expressing his frustration over the central government’s disappointing approach towards ensuring cleanliness and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga.
The bench concluded, “we take it that almost nothing has happened in reality.”
The National Green Tribunal was established in October 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for “effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.”
It was asked by the Supreme Court to act against industrial units polluting river Ganga. It said that the Centre and the states were merely trading blames and responsibilities over the years and nothing substantive could be seen on the ground.
The counsel representing ministry of water resources said that starting from 1985, almost Rs 4,000 crore had been spent on the rejuvenation of the river till last year.
According to him, the Ganga Action Plan Phase-I was launched as a centrally-funded scheme in 1985 before its Phase-II was began eight years later.
In 2009, ‘National Ganga River Basin Authority’ was setup for pollution control in river Ganga.
The government council attempted to explain the reasons behind the lackadaisical approach of the central government in cleaning the Ganga. He said that NGRBA, a World Bank-funded scheme, was aimed at effective “abatement of pollution and conservation of Ganga” and 70 per cent of the total project cost was contributed by the Centre and the remaining expenses were borne by the states.
The bench said, “better be careful of what you say. We take it as almost nothing has happened in reality. It is not suddenly that we are asking for all the information from you.
“We have been waiting for the last one year. But for one reason or the other, you have been delaying the issue. We
don’t want to comment on that. But this time we are not leaving it to your discretion, be rest assured. To clean Ganga is your prime responsibility. Days are very short for you.”
Aftet forming his new government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talking about his resolve to clean the Ganga. He had created a separate ministry for this purpose and give its additional charge to the water resources minister Uma Bharti.
In June this year, Bharti had said that Ganga would be pollution free by 2016. But a month later she changed her estimation saying that the river wouldn’t be clean until 2020.
The minister was embroiled in a huge controversy last year after an RTI reply revealed that government had Rs 43.85 lakh on a meeting on the issue at Vigyan Bhawan in the capital in July 2014. Bharti had defended this expense.