Pointing out how the work of Ganga rejuvenation is getting delayed due to multiplicity of implementing authorities, the parliamentary Committee on Estimates - chaired by the BJP Lok Sabha member Murli Manohar Joshi - on Wednesday suggested setting up an apex body, headed by the Prime Minister, for better coordination and implementation of all the schemes of the cleaning of the country's national river in a time-bound manner.
The Committee suggested that the apex body should also be backed by a legislative framework with statutory power to take decisions on all aspects of river rejuvenation projects -- whether it is land acquisition for sewage treatment plants, maintaining uninterrupted flow of the river or regulation of water withdrawal for industrial, agriculture and domestic use.
Speaking on the report of the Committee on Estimates (2015-16), Joshi also flagged as to how construction of dams has become a major stumbling block to the river cleaning exercise as it had affected the natural flow (ecological flow having self-cleaning properties) of the river and suggested that the government should not go ahead with any hydro-power project till the Supreme Court takes a call on the issue.
"Damming of the river is quite harmful. It is accepted world over that the dams are damaging the rivers", Joshi said.
He also expressed his reservation to the government's ambitious plan of inter-linking of rivers and suggested extreme caution while going ahead with the plan.
Joshi, former Union minister, said rivers can be inter-linked on small scale but it is not "practical" to go for large-scale interlinking at the national level.
Claiming that thousands of kilowatts of power will be required to run pump sets to lift water from one end to another, he said, "It will require power and money. We are short of power as it is...how will water cross the Malwa plateau? Imagine the number of pumping sets required".
He said, had it been practical, then nature itself would have done it. "The rivers would have been inter-connected. But it is not.....Different rivers flow\located in different environments (topographical regions)...So, one should be very careful while pursuing the inter-linking plan "
Joshi, however, clarified that river inter-linking is not one of the subjects of the Estimates Committee.
The government has identified 30 projects of inter-linking of rivers across the country. However, only three links -- Ken-Betwa, Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada - have been taken up for implementation. Though all necessary works have been completed for linking of Ken and Betwa rivers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the actual works on the ground have not yet started due to absence of certain environmental clearances.
Speaking about the apex body on Ganga rejuvenation, Joshi said the Committee noted that the gigantic task of river cleaning cannot be accomplished through a piecemeal and fragmented approach.
Specifying need for making effective amendments in various environmental laws, the Committee, having 30 MPs as its members from different political parties, recommended that the ministry of water resources should take appropriate action expeditiously so that a "strong, comprehensive and credible legislative framework is put in place envisaging, among others, the creation of an empowered overarching authority to deal with all aspects of Ganga rejuvenation and for maintaining the pristine purity of the Ganga it is revered for".
Joshi said the Committee submitted its report to the Parliament with its recommendation on Wednesday. "Now, it is for the government to act upon it", he said.