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Special Content

Issue no 40, 31 December 2022 - 06 January 2023

Namami Gange Recognized by UN as Torchbearer in World Ecology Restoration Efforts


The United Nations (UN) has recognised 'Namami Gange' initiative as one of the top 10 World Restoration Flagships to revive the natural world. Namami Gange was selected from over 150 such initiatives from 70 countries across the globe. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) describes Namami Gange as, "Launched in 2014, the government-led Namami Gange initiative is rejuvenating, protecting and conserving the Ganges and its tributaries, reforesting parts of the Ganges basin and promoting sustainable farming. It also aims to revive key wildlife species, including river dolphins, softshell turtles, otters, and the hilsa shad fish. Investment by the Indian government is up to $4.25 billion so far. The initiative has the involvement of 230 organisations, with 1,500km of river restored to date. Additionally, there has been 30,000 hectares of afforestation so far, with a 2030 goal of 134,000 hectares.".


How will Namami Gange Benefit from this Recognition? : The initiatives declared World Restoration Flagships are eligible to receive UN-backed promotion, advice or funding.


What is Namami Gange project?: The Government launched an integrated Ganga conservation mission called 'Namami Gange' in 2014 to arrest the pollution of the sacred River Ganga and subsequently revive the river. River Ganga is important not only for its cultural and spiritual significance but also because it hosts more than 40% of the country's population. The focus of Namami Gange programme has been on abatement of pollution, together with cleaning of ghats, regulatory control of industrial pollution and real time online monitoring of pollution in the river, besides afforestation and biodiversity conservation


Nodal Agency: The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), is the designated authority to take all necessary decisions and actions for pollution abatement and rejuvenation of River Ganga. NMCG is the nodal agency acting as the planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating agency for implementing the 'Namami Gange' programme.


Budget and Implementation : Initially, Government of India launched the Namami Gange Programme in June 2014, with the total budgetary outlay of Rs 20,000 crore to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga and its tributaries. The budget for the programme is provided in the Demands for Grants for Ministry of Jal Shakti. The National Mission for Clean Ganga releases funds to State Project Management Groups (SPMGs) on the basis of Annual Action Plans as and when demanded. Under Namami Gange programme, diverse set of interventions for cleaning and rejuvenation of river Ganga have been taken up. These includes pollution abatement activities including domestic sewage, industrial effluent, solid waste etc., River front Management, Aviral Dhara, Rural Sanitation, Afforestation, Biodiversity Conservation, Public Participation etc. A total of 346 projects are taken up at a sanctioned cost of Rs.30,235 crore, out of which, 158 projects are completed (as of July 2022). The certainty of funds and scaled-up budget enabled the mission to survey and conduct condition assessment of all the cities, towns, villages and industries along River Ganga and develop a scientific roadmap for appropriate multi-sectoral interventions. In order to impart momentum and broaden the scope of the program for Ganga Rejuvenation, an empowered institutional framework was developed. The programme, with its holistic approach and innovative features, has gathered momentum with completion of several projects and developing a framework for river rejuvenation. Key Ministries comprising of (a) Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, (b) Environment, Forest & Climate Change, (c) Urban Development, (d) Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, (e) Rural Development (f) Tourism, and (g) Shipping have been working together since the inception of the programme for a comprehensive approach. Recognising the multisectoral, multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder nature of the Ganga rejuvenation challenge, efforts have been made to improve the inter-ministerial, and centre-state coordination with increased involvement in preparation of action plan and increased monitoring at central and state levels. The implementation of the program has been divided into entry-level activities (for immediate visible impact), medium term activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame), and, longterm activities (to be implemented within 10 years).


Entry-level activities includes river surface cleaning to address the floating solid wastes; rural sanitation to arrest the pollution (solid and liquid) entering through rural sewage drains and construction of toilets; renovation, modernization, and construction of crematoria that prevents the disposal of unburnt/ partially burnt bodies in the river; Riverfront Management for Ghats' development in selected cities and towns repair, modernization and construction of ghats to improvise the human-river connect. Rehabilitation and upgradation of existing sewage treatment plants (STPs) along River Ganga; conservation of Aquatic life - special attention on Dolphin, Turtles and Ghariyals; safe disposal of flowers and other puja material; establishment of Ganga Task Force and Ganga Vahini; GIS data and Spatial Analysis for Ganga basin; study of communities depending on Ganga for their traditional livelihood; National Ganga Monitoring Centre; special guidelines for sand mining in Ganga; assessment of Special Properties of Ganga Water; and communication and public outreach activities are also included in short-term activities.


On medium term, apart from the completion of the ongoing projects, activities, include identification of urban habitations on banks of river Ganga for extending coverage of sewerage infrastructure including sewage treatment; making over 1,600 Gram Panchayats located on Ganga banks free from open defecation; and enforcing zero liquid discharge by the grossly polluting industries located in the all Ganga River Basin States.


The long-term vision for rejuvenation of River Ganga is restoring wholesomeness of the river in terms of defining the concept of ensuring Nirmal Dhara, Aviral Dhara and maintaining the ecological and geological integrity of the river


Strategic Steps and Actions: Strategic steps and actions for revival and long-term security of River Ganga are grouped under different missions:

·         Mission 1: Aviral Dhara For water resources planning with emphasis on wetlands, forests and distributed groundwater and surface water storages; to ensure efficient use of water; shifting policy with emphasis on water resource preservation, ensuring longitudinal river connectivity etc.

·         Mission 2: Nirmal Dhara For the management of solid and liquid wastes generated from domestic/commercial sources; riverfront development, floodplain management and rejuvenation of water bodies; management of industrygenerated solid and liquid wastes and management of polluted agricultural run-off

·         Mission 3: Ecological Restoration: For the restoration of unpolluted rivers; regulation of river bed farming and sandmining from river beds; control of alien species invasions, overfishing and fishing during spawning seasons; river nutrient assessment and release of sediments trapped behind dams/barrages into downstream river reaches; long-term biomonitoring of the Ganga river network; synergising actions with the dolphin conservation action plan-2010; and comprehensive research on ecological dynamics of the river system.

·         Mission 4: Sustainable Agriculture: To promote the adoption of conservation agriculture to enhance soil fertility and agricultural output with resource conservation; promotion of organic farming; promoting regional resource conservation steps to counter monotonous agro-ecosystem impacts and experimentation, adaptability and flexibility in agriculture to synthesise traditional knowledge with ongoing and future scientific discoveries.

·         Mission 5: Geological Safeguarding: To control/regulate geologically hazardous activities including deep groundwater withdrawals and underground excavations; restrictions on geomorphologically harmful land-use practices such as deforestation and construction activities on hill slopes; improved drainage of low-lying areas and disturbed areas stabilisation; and mapping river migration zones and geological monitoring of basin

·         Mission 6: Basin Protection Against Disasters To ensure that ecosystems should be strengthened against catastrophic disasters by preserving wetlands, promoting mixed vegetation and indigenous forests, and curbing human land use disturbances and encroachments; floodplain regulations; to study the ecology of forest fires and epidemics; to check deforestation, road and building constructions, unsafe debris disposal in the upper Ganga basin and other hilly regions to minimise land-slides, among others

·         Mission 7: River Hazards Management To ensure preparation of basin scale flood-risk maps; for drainage improvement; to look for alternatives to embankments for flood management with emphasis on 'living with the floods' concept; research on sediment dynamics and its application in river management projects for sustainable river management strategies, etc

·         Mission 8: Environmental Knowledge For processing and storage of information on the basin's natural resources, anthropogenic activities, and environmental monitoring of the basin; conducting educational workshops and campaigns with stakeholders and interested citizens to enable their sensitisation and comprehensive understanding of basin processes; conducting ground level monitoring and field researches of the Ganga river basin's environment with stakeholder participation

One of NMCG's long term visions for Ganga Rejuvenation is to restore the viable populations of all endemic and endangered biodiversity of the river so that they occupy their full historical range and fulfill their role in maintaining the integrity of the Ganga River ecosystems. Presence of rich biodiversity in a river ecosystem is the ultimate indicator of the river's health. The Ganga river ecosystem supports more than 25,000 oral and faunal species. Biodiversity of any ecosystem is threatened foremost by the loss or degradation of its habitat. Major threats to River Ganga's biodiversity can be grouped under five overlapping categories: over-exploitation, water pollution, flow modification, destruction or degradation of habitat and invasion by exotic species, with global scale environmental changes being superimposed upon all of them.


Mascot NMCG has been focusing on youth as part of its outreach and public communications efforts as they are the impellers of change. As a step towards this NMCG tied-up with Diamond Toons to develop and distribute comics, ecomics and animated videos. The content will be designed with the objective of bringing about behavioural change amongst children towards Ganga and other rivers. To increase association among children, Chacha Chaudhary was declared as the mascot of the Namami Gange Programme and will be useful in ground-level activation for Ganga rejuvenation


United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people would be. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction. The recognized initiatives, such as Namami Gange, were declared World Restoration Flagships and are eligible to receive UNbacked promotion, advice, technical expertise or funding. Together, the 10 flagships aim to restore more than 68 million hectares and create nearly 15 million jobs. Namami Gange was selected as one of the flagships that are the "best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration".


About UNEP World Restoration Flagships: The United Nations has recognized 10 ground-breaking efforts from around the globe for their role in restoring the natural world. The winning initiatives were unveiled at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal and a special virtual gala event

·         Efforts from Central America to East Asia were honoured as World Restoration Flagships

·         The initiatives are now eligible to receive United Nations-backed promotion, advice or funding

·         The UN Decade seeks to honour the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration

·         Until 2030, regular calls for World Restoration Flagships will be launched.

·         Together, the 10 flagships aim to restore more than 68 million hectares? an area bigger than Myanmar, France or Somalia

·         Together, the 10 flagships are expected to create nearly 15 million jobs.


Compiled by: Annesha Banerjee & Anuja Bhardwajan Source: PIB/NMCG/www. decadeonrestoration.org/unep. org