New Delhi: Political leaders, environmental activists and spiritual personalities came together here Monday for wide-ranging discussions on ways to clean and develop the Ganga - a river holy for the Hindus.
Union Tourism and Culture Minister Shripada Yasso Naik stressed that the 2,525-km river, which flows from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, will be made a major tourism destination.
"Tourism spots will be developed all along the banks of the Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar. We are exploring the possibilities of introducing 'shikaras' on the Ganga on the pattern of Kashmir," he said at 'Ganga Manthan', a day-long national dialogue on the Ganga here.
Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said his ministry was considering a proposal to conduct dredging to provide a width of 45 metres and five metres draft (depth) to enable navigation of small ships between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Hooghly in West Bengal on the river in the first stage of its development.
He said barrages are proposed to be constructed at every 100 km on the river.
"Our ministry has sent a proposal in this regard to the World Bank for the development of the Allahabad-Haldia corridor," Gadkari said.
Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Uma Bharti called for a "continuous" and "uninterrupted" flow of the river from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, and said there wouldn't be any shortage of funds for the purpose.
"The whole country is committed for continuous and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, and we will work with full sincerity (to that end)," she said.
"We have had a series of discussions with various stakeholders on the issue and will soon arrive on some positive outcome," asserted Uma Bharti, adding that people irrespective of their faith are committed to this cause.
She said there "won't be any shortage of funds" for the Ganga rejuvenation programme.
Reacting to criticism by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who had Sunday termed the programme to clean the Ganga as a 'Hindutva project' thus accusing the government of polarisation, Bharti said the issue should not be politicised.
"Whoever said this... I won't take any names, is indulging in dirty politics. I pity people who have such thinking," Bharti said.
The day-long dialogue, organised by the National Mission for Clean Ganga, was attended by a large number of delegates from various parts of the country and abroad.
The dialogue had four different sessions on "Ganga and Sanskriti" (for spiritual leaders), "Public Participation for Ganga" (for public representatives and administrators), "Aviral and Nirmal Ganga" (for NGOs and environmentalists) and "Comprehensive and Sustainable Solutions" (for academicians and technocrats).