An official panel, framing a draft law on the cleaning of the Ganga, has proposed a two- tiered mechanism to replace two existing bodies which are implementing the Namami Gange programme. If the draft legislation is enacted, it would become the first-ever law on any river in the country. The panel has recommended establishing an integrated development council (IDC) with the prime minister as its ex- officio chairperson. The IDC is proposed to replace the existing National Council for Ganga, which is also chaired by the PM.
Besides, it has suggested setting up the National River Ganga Basin Management Corporation (NRGBMC) to be headed by the water resources minister. It is proposed to replace the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). The National Council for Ganga and the NMCG are currently implementing the Namami Gange programme.
The IDC is proposed to have 19 members. These include Union ministers of water resources, environment, urban development, power, rural development, drinking water and sanitation, chief ministers of five Ganga basin states and five co-opted experts.
The NRGBMC would have 13 members, including secretaries of ministries of water resources, environment, NITI Aayog's deputy chairman, central pollution control board chairperson and five experts from the IDC. It would function as "the custodian of the river and its tributaries" and as the nodal agency for the implementation of the law.
The panel said the IDC may issue guidelines and directions relating to the policy for management of the river's basin.
According to the draft legislation, construction/ modification of dam, barrages, permanent structure on the Ganga or its tributaries and deforestation of hill slopes and notified forest areas would require prior approval of the IDC. The IDC would also be responsible for ironing out differences among basin states over measures to be taken to abate the river's pollution.
Its jurisdiction would extend to Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Rajasthan and other states through which tributaries of the Ganga pass. The NRGBMC would be responsible for ensuring effective abatement, prevention and control of pollution, continuous flow and physical, chemical and biological integrity of the river.
The panel has suggested the Corporation should have a director general as an executive head.
At present, the prime minister heads the National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management)', which has the overall responsibility of superintending pollution prevention activities and rejuvenation of the river's basin.
The water resources minister leads an "empowered task force" to ensure that ministries, departments and state governments concerned have an action plan for achievement of the objective of rejuvenation and protection of the Ganga.
The NMCG, led by a director general, is directly implementing the Centre's ambitious Namami Gange programme.
Meanwhile, a member of another panel set up by the government to study the draft legislation said on condition of anonymity: "The report, the role and functions of the proposed bodies are still being reviewed. There could be modifications in the bill based on suggestions we receive from stakeholders concerned."