National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018

• The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority, according to a proposed ‘Ganga Act’.

• The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018.

• It proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.’

In Winter session

• The Bill is now being circulated for comments among several Ministries, and proposed to be tabled in Parliament during the Winter session, according to sources.

• The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river.

• Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed, say several activists and researchers, and persistent campaign.

• The government finally recognising the need for proposed and existing hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum flows all through the year.

• The legislation looms even as the government is developing a National Waterways Project-1 (River Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi (1,390 km), with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank, at an estimated cost of ₹5,369 crore.

• Food and beverage giant PepsiCo has dispatched 16 containers from Haldia containing packaged food and assorted goods.

• They are expected to dock in Varanasi on November 12, according to a statement from the Union Shipping Ministry.

• This is the first container movement aboard an inland vessel in independent India, according to that Ministry.

Way forward

• The waterways project involves creating permanent and movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-silting to ensure that minimum river depths for the smooth movement of the vessel are maintained.

• However, the proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorised” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water.

• It could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.

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

Prelims level: Particulars of the Draft Bill

Mains level: Maintaining ecological flow of River Ganga

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