The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) or Namami Gange has initiated a project for organic farming in the villages along Ganga right from its source in Gangotri in Uttarakhand till Gangasagar in West Bengal to curb pollution in its water.
The project was launched during the lockdown month of May under which the agriculture departments of the respective states where the Ganga flows will work on promoting organic farming in the villages situated along the river with funds for the same from NMCG.
In Uttarakhand, the project will cover the villages located alongside Ganga from Devprayag in Tehri Garhwal district where its two main tributaries Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, merge in it. It will also include the villages near its aforementioned two tributaries till Haridwar from where the Ganga exits to Uttar Pradesh. The total length of Ganga in the Himalayan state including the tributaries is about 250 km.
50,000 hectares area covered in Uttarakhand with project cost of Rs 400 crore
Suresh Chandra, joint director, Uttarakhand state agriculture directorate which is overlooking the project in Uttarakhand said the ‘total cost of the project here is about ₹400 cr’.
“Under this project, the finding will be completely done by Namami Gange while the implementation would be done by state agriculture department. Of the total cost, we have already received ₹37 cr from it so far after it was launched in May this year,” said Chandra.
He informed that in Uttarakhand, an area of 50,000 hectares would be included in the project.
“The area is of the villages which are situated near the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand. In the project duration of three years, we will promote organic farming by training the farmers there for its implementation so as to gradually stop the use of chemical fertilizers,” said Chandra.
Move meant to stop flowing of chemical fertilizers in Ganga
Chandra said that the main objective of the project is to stop the flowing of chemical fertilizers into Ganga from the crops near it.
“As of now, farmers majorly use chemical fertilizers in their crops which during rains wash down into Ganga which then pollutes it and affects water quality. This initiative aims to stop that as in organic farming the farmers will stop using the chemical fertilizers,” he said.
Not much effort needed to implement the project in Uttarakhand
The agriculture department official also said that in Uttarakhand ‘not much effort will be needed to implement the project.’
“It is because we have been already working on promoting organic farming here before this project was launched. We have an Organic Farming Act- the only state in the country to have it and already have 1.45 lakh hectares in organic farming. This project will add 50,000 hectares in it which is not a big deal for us,” said Chandra.
Initiative will improve Ganga water quality as well provide quality agri-produce
Explaining the importance of this project, Chandra said that it ‘will not only improve the water quality but will also improve the quality of agricultural produce in the crops near Ganga.’
“The improved water quality will be beneficial for the river’s ecosystem. Apart from this, with organic farming, the people will be able to get good quality vegetables and fruits from the crops near Ganga. So it is a win-win situation for all,” he said.
Experts have mixed opinion on the project
The experts, however, have mixed opinion on the initiative with some welcoming it while others termed it a mere gimmick.
Prominent environmentalist and Padma Shri awardee Anil Prakash Joshi who runs Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO) welcomed the initiative saying it will ‘curb down the pollution in Ganga which is much needed.’
“About 70% pollution in Ganga is due to man-made pollutants. This move will, if not all but, reduce the pollution by at least 15-20% which is significant considering the number of people this river has an impact on. Hence, we should welcome this step,” said Joshi.
Rajendra Singh, another eminent environmentalist and Magsaysay awardee, who is also known as the ‘Waterman of India’ called the initiative as ‘mere gimmick.’
Singh said, “This move is nothing but a mere gimmick in the name of cleaning Ganga and an attempt to defame the farmers. The main cause of pollution in Ganga is discharge of waste water by industries and sewerage by the cities situated near it.”
“It was evident during the lockdown when the quality of water in Ganga had improved significantly because the industries were shut down. It was not because of organic farming,” he said.
Singh also said that the “Maa Ganga is actually suffering from a cardiac disease but the government is like trying to treat her toothache with this new project. The focus should be on cardiac disease which is industrial pollution.”
SP Subudhi, member secretary of Uttarakhand state pollution control board welcomed the Namami Gange’s move and said, “The government has launched the project after much analysis, it will surely help in curbing down the pollution in Ganga and improve its water quality.”