World Bank Approves $1 Billion For Ganges River Cleanup

ganges in varanasi photo
photo: Jaymis Loveday/Creative Commons

That many stretches of the River Ganga in India are highly polluted, mostly thanks to inadequate sewerage and sanitation as well as industrial activity, should come as no surprise to many TreeHugger readers. In the latest effort to fund cleanup of the iconic river, the World Bank has approved $1 billion in funding for the National Ganga River Basin Authority.The money, 80% of which comes in the form of loans and 20% in credit, is designated so that the NGRBA can build capacity of its "operational level institutions" and so that can make investments "for reducing pollution in a sustainable manner".

That sustainable manner has four key parts, according to World Bank's summary of the project: Wastewater collection and treatment, industrial pollution control, solid waste management, and riverfront management.

World Bank's Venu Rajamony said in a press statement:

The Ganga is a lifeline for India and is especially critical for the large and important states it flows through. The lives of the people living here and the economy of these states are largely intertwined with the river. Earlier efforts to clean the Ganga concentrated on a few highly polluting towns and centers and addressed 'end-of-the-pipe' wastewater treatment there; Mission Clean Ganga builds on lessons from the past, and will look at the entire Gangetic basin while planning and prioritizing investment instead of the earlier town-centric approach.

The Gangetic Basin is home to 400 million people. Two-thirds of the sewage generated by the towns and cities on the Ganga is untreated.

Implementation issues aside (outcomes don't often fully match up with lofty goals), the problem of pollution in the Ganga is far from insurmountable. Preventing industrial discharge and building adequate water treatment and sanitation facilities will allow the river to recover.

In addition to problems with pollution, the Ganga faces threats from climate change. As Himalayan glaciers at the headwaters of the river and its tributaries continue to retreat, in the future, flow could be severely restricted, adding to the stresses on water supply from agricultural withdrawals and changing precipitation patterns.

More on Rivers
India Cancels Third Hydropower Project on Ganges Tributary on Environmental & Religious Concerns
Why 'Gandhi of Water' Rajendra Singh Is Traveling the Length of the Ganges River

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