The new body — which as yet has no name — will take over from the National Ganga River Basin Authority and various other responsible entities spread across a number of Ministries.
This diffused approach has been criticised in the past for wasting millions of dollars on clean-up initiatives with little or no effect.
While the Ganga is sacred to Hindus, who believe bathing in its waters will cleanse their sins, entering the river amid mounds of garbage, industrial waste and untreated sewage has become a health hazard along much of its course.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced he will personally take charge of the new clean-up effort, an indication of the importance his newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government places on the task.
In announcing the latest proposals, Modi says the private sector will play a significant role and has not ruled out engaging overseas expertise. This has already been seized upon by Germany, with Deputy Consul General Michael Ott saying his country’s experience in cleaning Europe’s longest river, the 1232-kilometre Rhine, could be invaluable to the Ganga project.
Hundreds of new sewage treatment plants will be required, industries which discharge into the river will be required to clean up their acts, while a number that dump waste illegally may be closed down altogether.
There are religious sensitivities. Apart from ritual bathing, Hindu funeral rites normally involve cremation with the ashes often deposited in the sacred river. Modi, whose parliamentary constituency is Varanasi, the holiest city on the banks of the Ganga, has said he wants senior Hindu leaders involved in the project from the outset.
An indication of the problem on the Ganga and other Indian rivers can be seen at this video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG3thzNUIdY
No one is underestimating the enormity of the task and talk about it getting done in the BJP’s first term, which ends in 2019, is now being downplayed.
But by tackling head-on what will probably be the most difficult task on the BJP agenda in the first few months of the Government’s term, Modi is setting the pace for what he sees as five years of urgently-needed reform if the nation of 1.2 billion people is to reach its full potential.
Encouragement for small business and access to credit for the entrepreneurial poor were also in the speech. It is setting poor people upto fail by giving them access to credit, so they then exceed their limits and get bankrupted!