Experts say that the quantum fixed by government is not enough
Former Union Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar has said that the government’s October 9 notification requiring a “minimum flow” in the Gangais “woefully inadequate.” Additionally, an analysis by Professor Vinod Tare of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur of the actual water flow at barrages downstream of Haridwar and using data provided by the Central Water Commission, suggests that actual flow today already exceeds the government’s prescriptions. These findings emerged at the India Rivers Week conference on Saturday.
While the government has promised to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019, environmentalists say that this relies on setting up sewage plants rather than ensuring that the natural flow of the river isn’t blocked and thereby hobbling its propensity to clean itself.
Among the sharpest critics of the government’s approach — led by the National Mission for Clean Ganga — was the late G.D. Agrawal, a seer and formerly a scientist, who’d undertaken a fast since June. His key demands were to stop all under-construction dams in the upper reaches of the Ganga, and modify the design of existing ones to ensure that flow in the lower reaches of the river was at least 50% of the monthly average flow. He died on October 11.
However, the government’s notification said that the upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain 20% of the monthly average flow between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
For the main stem of the Ganga — from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao, Uttar Pradesh — the notification specifies minimum flow at various barrages: Bhimgoda (Haridwar) must ensure a minimum of 36 cubic metres per second (cumecs) between October-May, and 57 cumecs in the monsoon; and the barrages at Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur must maintain a minimum of 24 cumecs in the non-monsoon months of October-May, and 48 cumecs during the monsoon months of June-September.
“These flows are already achieved and this is the state of the river…there’s no real scientific basis to the government’s calculations,” said Mr. Tare.