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Work commencing on Ganga Waterway involving 4 states

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, August 08, 2014 | 2:36 AM

The idea of Ganga Waterway is to ensure that between Allahabad and Haldia there is a depth of three meters in Ganga for navigation. In this regard a team of World Bank visited Gaighat, Patna. The team comprised of Peter Macqueen, Gurmukh Singh, Ravikant, Arnab Bandhopadhyay and others.

A team of World Bank and Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) visited Varanasi on August 4 to undertake a survey of the Ganga for the proposed project. The project to develop National Waterway (NW-I) Haldia-Allahabad would require an expenditure of Rs 4,200 crore. The World Bank has been approached for technical assistance and investment for the project. The Bank had in July 2014 indicated its readiness to support the project, with an initial loan assistance of $ 50 million, including technical assistance. 

Between Allahabad- Varanasi and Varanasi-Buxer there are two barrages proposed which is going to be constructed by a Danish company. A 45 meter wide waterway is planned to carry cargo ships of 1200-1500 ton capacity. The depth of Ganga between Patna-Buxer is too low. 

The Bank team visited National Inland Navigation institute (NINI), the first national institute of the IWAI at Patna wherein Captain  I V Solanki, Project Director gave a presentation about NINI. The Bank team left for Kolkata by the ship of IWAI on the morning of August 6, 2014. (Friends, colleagues and conrades from Kolkata alone can share information about what transpired between state officials, Bank officials and the officials in Farakka and Haldia). After their Kolkata visit the team may have gone to Jharkhand.

Among several aspects that has been ignored the tortoise sanctuary, a wildlife protected zone under the Wildlife Protection Act-1972 faces threat. 

This message as a follow up of the discussion on the impact of Farakka barrage on the Ganga in the context of the proposed barrages for Ganga Waterway between Allahabad to Haldia which happened in Patna on 31st July, 2014,The discussion happened at the Conference Hall of the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority.  A resolution was adopted at the conference which is being sent to the concerned authorities in the state and at the centre.

In order to protect Ganga and to respond to threats to Ganga from blind infrastructural interventions, corporate crimes and apathy of citizens, a committee for the protection of Ganga was formed following inputs of the participants like Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Dr D K Mishra, Safdar Imam Qadri, Dr Kalyan Rudra, R K Sinha, Anil Prakash, Ranjeev, Prof. Santosh, Ram Bihari Singh, Mahendra Yadav, Pushpraj, Kavindra Pandey, Gopal Krishna, Manisha Jha, Anoop Kumar, Satyendra Prasad, Zakiuddin,  Dineshchandra,  Chandrashekhram, Anshuman Raja, Parminder Singh and other eminent citizens, 

It is quite disturbing that this project is being initiated without learning any lessons from the failure of Farakka barrage. Modi government plans to construct barrage/dams at every 100 km between Allahabad to Haldia. Thus, there is a proposal for some 16 barrages/dams. It should be opposed the way Ganga Expressway project was successfully opposed to ensure survival of Ganga for the coming generations. 

This Rs.4, 000-6000 crore project will get the support of all those who will get share in this project besides international financial institutions like World Bank.

Nitin Gadkari, Union Surface Transport & Shipping Minister who also holds the portfolio of Rural Development has announced plans to develop inland waterways in the Ganga from Varanasi to Hooghly via Bihar. He plans to create multi-purpose terminals for commercial use. 

If this is how Rs.1-lakh crore ‘Clean Ganga’ project plans to move, its fate will not be any different from the initiatives of Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. 

The minister's river consciousness is shaped by rivers of Maharashtra. He has no consciousness of Himalayan rivers. 

The impact on the entire trasnboundary Ganga basin must be examined to comprehend the cumulative environmental impact of the proposed project keeping in mind the experience with  2,240 metres long Farakka barrage across Ganga in West Bengal, roughly 16.5 kilometres from the border with Bangladesh near Chapai Nawabganj district. Its construction was started in 1961 and completed in 1975.  

The purpose of the barrage was/is to divert 40,000 cusecs of water from the Ganga to Hoogly river for flushing out the Kokata harbour from the sediment deposition without the need of regular mechanical dredging. After commissioning the project, it was found that the diverted water flow from the Farakka barrage is not adequate to flush the sediment from the river and there are regular land/bank collapses in to the Ganga river due to the high level back waters of the Farakka barrage. Substantial high land is already converted in to low level river bed causing displacement of huge population.

Similar fate awaits the barrages that are planned for Ganga Waterway project. The silence of the opposition parties of all shades in these three states in particular is quite stark.

Ganga Waterway project must be looked at in the context of Clean Ganga project, the proposed Interlinking of rivers project and the efforts for safeguarding Himalayan ecosystem because experience world over suggests that such projects are first disaggregated to divide people and blunt people's resistance.  

Social organisations, academic institutions and concerned citizens of Uttarakhand, UP, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar and Ganga basin must join hands to take stock of the proposed project and its adverse impact besides examining the claimed benefits from the Ganga Waterway project. There is a need to set up citizens committees in the cities across 1620 kilometers of Ganga stretch for regular exchange of information and action plans. The exercise cannot remain confined to the immediately affected states, it must include all the states and countries in the Ganga basin across its length and breadth.    

Gopal Krishna
Ganga Bachao Samiti 
(Ganga Protection Committee)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Twitter:@krishna1715  
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