Centre sets ‘minimum river flows’ for the Ganga

• The central government on Wednesday notified the minimum environmental flows for river Ganga that has to be maintained at various locations on the river.

• Environmental flows refer to the acceptable flow regimes that are required to maintain a river in the desired environmental or predetermined state.
Reasons behind issuing the notification

• The notification issued by the government aims to ensure that the river has the minimum required environmental flow of water even after the river flow gets diverted by projects and structures for purposes like irrigation, hydropower, domestic and industrial use.

• The government also announced that the draft Ganga Act will soon be sent to the cabinet for approval.

• The draft Act addresses critical issues pertaining to Ganga on its cleanliness (Nirmalta) and uninterrupted environmental flow (Aviralta) and provides corresponding provisions thereof.

• The Centre had formed a committee in 2016 under the chairmanship of Justice (retired) Giridhar Malviya to frame a draft for the Ganga act, in a bid to provide stricter action against polluting the river.

• The committee has adopted certain stricter provision to increase accountability and responsibility for use of resources made available by National River Ganga,” the ministry had said in a statement.

• The compliance of minimum environmental flow is applicable to all existing, under-construction and future projects.

• The existing projects which currently do not meet the norms will have to ensure that the desired environmental flow norms are complied with within a period of three years,” the ministry said in a statement.

• The notification also states that the centre through the National Mission for Clean Ganga may direct the release of additional water in the river to meet special demand as and when required.

Way forward

• The government has not defined the methodology in the process.

• What they have referred to is a minimum flow of the river which is very unclear.

• There is no clarity on the reference they have taken for the minimum environment flow; whether it was the flow in the 1950’s or the 70’s.

• The other issue is on how they are going to maintain the flow because they will have to cut supply from somewhere to cater to dry areas, so there has to be clarity on these things otherwise this is merely a political announcement.

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: Ecological Flow

Mains level: River planning initiatives in India

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