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Time running out to preserve Ganga: PM

New Delhi: Warning that time was running out to preserve the Ganga, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today pulled up state governments for tardy performance on sewage treatment and asked them to take action against industries polluting the river.

Voicing concern over discharge of 2,900 million litres of sewage in the Ganga every day, Singh asked state governments to send proposals for new sewage treatment plants and said that adequate funding was available to take up projects.

Addressing the third meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, he also flagged the issue of industrial pollution and said that industrial effluents, though only 20 per cent of the total effluents, were a cause of major concern as they were toxic and non-biodegradable.

Singh said that the State Pollution Control Boards were required to monitor compliance of effluent discharge standards. "Action must be taken against the defaulting industries by the State Boards under the powers delegated to them by the Central government," the Prime Minister said.

He requested the state governments to strengthen the relevant enforcement mechanisms.
"Time is not on our side and we have to act quickly," Singh said, adding that the solutions to these issues should not be piecemeal and should meet the test of scientific reasoning.

Singh said in order to formulate long term policies and actions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests commissioned a consortium of seven IITs to prepare a comprehensive River Basin Management Plan for the Ganga.

Singh said the Plan drafted by IITs would recommend comprehensive measures to restore and maintain the ecological health of the river giving due regard to the competing water uses and the necessity of a paradigm shift in the manner in which land, water and other natural resources is exploited in the Ganga basin.

"This Plan will be the basis for the NGRBAs long term Action Plan to deal with the multiple challenges we face in the task of cleaning the Ganga and maintaining its flows," he said.

Noting that the consortium has already submitted five initial reports, Singh urged them to carry on their work expeditiously and with due diligence.

Singh said the existing sewage treatment infrastructure was under-utilised particularly in the absence of connecting sewerage networks such as branch sewers and house sewer connections. "The Central government is examining some easing of the funding norms for operation and maintenance works," he said.

He also requested the Chief Ministers to make an assessment of the situation with regard to untreated sewage and industrial pollution and present a report to the NRGBA on the situation in their respective states. "We can then decide what concrete steps are necessary to attend to some of the institutional, administrative and financial problems that may be coming in the way of more effective implementation of pollution control and abatement measures," Singh said.

Urging all the state governments concerned to make full use of the resources available with the NRGBA, Singh said projects with an outlay of more than Rs 2,600 crore have been sanctioned so far under in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

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