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Namami Gange: Centre eyes single operator for old, new STP projects

New Delhi : The Centre is looking to have a mechanism in place to ensure that a single private sector company is entrusted with the task of upgradation and refurbishment of old and existing sewage treatment plants (STPs) in a city along the Ganga along with a contract for setting up greenfield STPs through the hybrid-annuity based public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

At the same time, Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari has indicated that the Centre has set a target of making 80-90 per cent of the Ganga clean by March 2019 through faster execution of numerous schemes and projects under the Namami Gange programme.

The Government will show `concrete results in the cleaning of Ganga before end of March 2019 under the Namami Gange Mission (Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission), Gadkari said recently.

While contracts have been awarded for construction of two single greenfield STPs at Varanasi and Hardwar in Uttar Pradesh on the hybrid-annuity based PPP mode, the Centre is planning to award upgradation of old STPs also to the private operator "so that we deal with one operator in one city", said Gadkari.

The next set of projects to be rolled out under 'one city one operator' will be in Allahabad, Patna, Kolkata and Kanpur while hybrid-annuity based STP projects have been sanctioned for Farukkabad, Ghazipur and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh and Bhagalpur in Bihar, he added.

The Water Resources Minister said that 10 cities have been identified, which contribute the most in the pollution of Ganga with Kanpur at the top of the list. "We have accordingly asked UP Government to ensure zero discharge from sugar factories, paper mills and other industrial units, which lead to high discharge of pollutants in Ganga," Gadkari said.

"Namami Gange is a challenging task as the river flows through multiple states and the level of pollution also varies. The Central Government has sanctioned funds to the tune of Rs 22000 crore for different schemes under Namami Gange. The schemes were conceptualised after studying the river pollution mitigation measures in other countries in Europe, US and Japan. The best minds and best technologies have been involved in conceptualising and execution of Namami Gange programme", said Gadkari.

The Namami Gange programme was allocated a budget outlay of Rs 20000 crore for five years in 2015 by the Union Cabinet. So far 97 sewerage infrastructure projects have been sanctioned at a cumulative cost of Rs 14127.49 crore.

In an interview on a leading business TV channel, Gadkari was quoted as saying, "We are implementing 97 projects for curbing pollution in Ganga. More than 70 per cent of the Ganga is polluted by 10 cities. Apart from 97 projects, there are 55 state projects also for the purpose of cleaning it. However, these 55 projects mostly are closed or in an incomplete stage".

"For these unfinished projects, we have prepared DPR and work order will be released before March. Out of 97 projects, work has started in 85. Not only Ganga, we have started cleaning Yamuna and now we are focusing on cleaning small rivers also. I can say confidently that 80 to 90 per cent of our Nirmal Ganga dream will be completed before 2019", said Gadkari.

The Water Resources Minister's assurance on the Ganga clean-up front comes in the wake of comments by several experts and industry leaders that the pace of project implementation has slowed down and that the Ganga would not be able to get cleaned-up even much beyond the 2019-deadline that the Modi Government had given itself.

Even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has warned that the Centre's flagship programme to clean the Ganga has so far been marred by poor financial management and implementation woes. The CAG, in a performance audit, stated in December last year that there has been underutilisation of funds and delays in project approvals and in achieving targets under the programme between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Union Environment and Forest Ministry, among other authorities, on a plea seeking an adequate flow of water in the Ganga

A bench headed by NGT acting chairperson UD Salvi recently sought replies from the authorities, including the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Ministry of Water Resources and the Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, before March 8.

The directions followed a plea filed by an environment activist seeking a direction from the court to ensure a minimum flow in the Ganga to maintain wildlife and river ecology.

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