India Has Spent Under A Quarter Of Funds Available For Ganges River Cleanup Over Last 2 Years, Auditor Finds

A federal audit has found that India’s government has only spent well under a quarter of the funds available to it for cleaning up the Ganges River over the last 2 years – with the audit determining that poor financial management and planning were then primary causes.

To provide specifics, the audit — performed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India — found that only $260 million out of total of $1.05 billion earmarked for the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) program between April 2015 and March 2017 was actually utilized.

This being the case as it remains true that water quality in 8 out of 10 towns surveyed along the Ganges remains below outdoor bathing standards.

Image source: The Ganges, by Jeeheon Cho from Surat Thani, Thailand (some rights reserved)

“The performance audit revealed deficiencies in financial management, planning, implementation, and monitoring, which led to delays in achievement of milestones,” the auditor explained in its 160-page report.

Reuters provides more: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration committed $3 billion in 2015 for a 5-year project to clean the 2,525-km (1,570-mile) river that remains heavily polluted despite being a water source for 400 million people. Modi, who represents the holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges, had made a clean-up of the Ganges one of his key campaign promises in a 2014 general election.

“…But the river, which stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, is also a destination for waste produced by hundreds of factories — over three-quarters of the sewage generated in the towns and cities of India’s crowded northern plains flows untreated into the Ganges. When a Reuters reporter visited northern Kanpur city in March, the river in most parts of the town appeared black in color, with its many factories and tanneries dumping waste into the Ganges. The federal auditor’s report contained pictures of untreated sewage being discharged directly into the river in several states.”

What’s notable is that the original goal set by the NMCG had been to award all contracts for all sewage treatment plants along the river by the end of 2016, but that as of late-2017, this goal was largely unmet.

“Without stopping sewage going into the river, we cannot imagine a clean Ganga. That should be the top priority,” noted Rakesh Jaiswal, the head of a Ganges-focused environmental group based out of Kanpur. “[The report] is a sad commentary on the government’s efforts to clean the river.”

While the original goal had been to have the river “cleaned up” by 2018, the government’s new water resources minister was recently quoted as saying that river water quality would likely only improve by March 2019 (by the soonest).

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