Corruption Focus - Save our rivers first!
1/13/2012 12:20 PM Friday
As soon as I was asked to write about rampant corruption in the environment, the sorry state of rivers such as Ganga and Yamuna flashed in front of my eyes. It is deeply painful and highly deplorable that even though more than Rs 3000 crore has been spent to clean the Ganga and the Yamuna, the two rivers are still grasping for breath under the load of unbearable pollution. Although three years are over since the formation of our National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to make the Ganga and its tributaries free from pollution and stop their degradation, our progress towards the objective is highly insignificant. Although our Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was a great failure, the management of affairs related to the Ganga continues to be handled by the central and state governmental bureaucracies in the same manner as before in the case of GAP.
And this is not a one-off case. From the Aravalli hills in Rajasthan to Bellary in Karnataka, the ecological balance of the nation is being exploited due to vested interests. All this is due to our moral bankruptcy, which is the fundamental cause of our various deep-rooted social evils, including the problem of corruption. It is very unfortunate that corruption exists at every level of the decision-making authority. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has also suggested in its findings that the National River Conservation Authority (NRCA), which is headed by the Prime Minister, diverts funds without proper meetings and consultations. It has met only a handful of times since its inception in 1995.
The main cause of all this is the lack of accountability and transparency. The NGRBA has already released hundreds of crores of rupees to the states for cleaning the Ganga in the same way as that of GAP without ever discussing the issue with its expert members. Similarly, an issue of great national significance such as the study of the cumulative impact of dams on the river Ganga was allotted to the Alternate Hydro Energy Centre (AHEC), IIT Roorkee, to complete the study within six months, keeping the expert members of the NGRBA completely in the dark on the issue. Such an important task was given solely to AHEC, IIT Roorkee, when the task of preparing the Ganga River Basin Management Plan (GRBMP) had already been given to the group of seven IITs. Thus, even the expert members of the NGRBA are almost totally neglected in the context of both decision-making as well as implementation.
Imagine that when even the policy makers are kept in the dark on such important issues, how can you expect the common man to know about all this? In fact, the Prime Minister did his best by bringing in nine non-government officials on board so that the whole Ganga project could be taken up in an appropriate way. But they are completely neglected by the bureaucracy. The Central government’s Ministry of Environment and Forests makes policies for saving our rivers and provides funds to various states for this purpose, but it does not bother to check whether these policies are diligently applied or not on the grounds that Water is a state subject.
It is a governmental policy that every factory and manufacturing facility must have a waste water treatment facility so as to treat the waste water before it is released into the rivers. However, we all know that untreated industrial effluents and sewage from cities continue to be the major source of the pollution of our rivers, including our national river, Ganga. This is the worst form of corruption as it directly affects human health, besides upsetting the ecological balance. The pollution control boards are not taking any action in this regard, and are not investigating the matter fully. Any idea why? You be the judge!
Since our rivers and forests will always remain invaluable for us, we must take time-bound, decisive steps to make all our rivers completely and permanently free from pollution and to transform one-third of our land into forests. Surely, saving the Ganga, the cradle of our civilisation and the lifeline of nearly 40 per cent of our country’s population, and the Himalayas, which is the source of the Ganga and many other great rivers, would be a major step in this direction. We must not allow our developmental activities to deprive the masses of the various invaluable gifts they have been getting freely for ages from the Himalayas and from the Ganga and its tributaries. In the name of development, we must not allow our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries to deprive our people of the invaluable pure air, clear water, harmless sunlight, natural manure, medicinal plants, etc., which they have been getting free from nature since the beginning of humankind.
We must replace the present extremely eco-hostile, out-and-out consumerist and inherently unsustainable, self-destructive culture of development of unlimited desires and cut-throat competition for getting more and more wealth for personal satisfaction by an ethical culture of contentment, purity and sustainable, non-violent development. The protection of the Ganga, symbolising all the rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolising all the mountains, forests and wildlife, must be the accorded highest priority in our national development process.
Through this column, I urge people to look beyond economic progress. The drive against corruption should not only be focussed on economy, and economy alone. Rather, a larger picture should be canvassed, where we give due importance to our ecological balance and preserve the Himalayas, the Gangas and the Yamunas. Surely, the Indian civilisation has the moral and spiritual resources to create a mass satyagraha to save not only the country, but the whole world, from the impending massive ecological crises that portend devastating implications not only for our future generations, but also for the entire world. Surely India, the mother of this great, living, ancient civilisation, is in a far better position than any other country to create and lead such a movement.
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