ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cleaning the Ganga River

What Needs To Be Done Differently

The central government has made cleaning of River Ganga one of its foremost priorities. A former administrator involved with the Ganga Action Plan suggests that a bottoms-up approach of involving local communities and stakeholders in the regeneration of the river would be the only possible way in which the new initiative will avoid the failures of the past.

Past efforts at cleaning the Ganga River had invariably received political support at the highest level in the central government, but the results were meagre compared to the funds and administrative time invested. The author was responsible for managing the West Bengal part of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in the late 1980s, and so these observations reflect the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, as well as having been engaged in different aspects of water management in several parts of the world.

The key lesson learned from the past and ongoing World Bank financed effort is quite stark: systemic factors, perpetuated by two centuries of state public works departments’ (PWD) practices of “projectising” civil engineering solutions cannot be reconciled with the desired outcome of a clean and well maintained, mixed land use riverfront development which turbocharges local urban economies by galvanising civic action to clean the river.

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