IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd September, 2023 Polity

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Picture Courtesy: www.worldbank.org

Context: Despite the efforts and resources invested in the past seven years, the Ganga River still faces multiple challenges of pollution, encroachment and ecological degradation. The ambitious project of cleaning and rejuvenating the sacred river, which was launched in 2014, has not achieved its desired outcomes and has been marred by delays, inefficiencies and lack of coordination. 


  • While some progress has been made in terms of sewage treatment, solid waste management and riverfront development, the overall quality of the river water remains poor and unfit for human consumption or bathing.
  • The mission to clean the Ganga requires a holistic and integrated approach that addresses the root causes of the problem and involves the participation of all stakeholders, including the central and state governments, local communities, civil society and the private sector.
  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was launched by the Indian government with an ambitious goal of cleaning and rejuvenating the Ganga River. The main objective of the mission is to ensure that no untreated sewage flows into the Ganga River.

Key Highlights of the Status Report of NMCG

  • Treatment of Sewage: Since the launch of NMCG, the government has installed sewage treatment plants (STPs) capable of treating only 20% of the sewage generated in the five major states along the Ganga River (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal). The plan is to increase this capacity to 33% by 2024 and 60% by December 2026.
  • Sewage Generation: The estimate of sewage generation is around 11,765 million litres per day (MLD) in these five states, according to a report submitted to the National Green Tribunal. However, the NMCG plans to set up STPs with a capacity of about 7,000 MLD by 2026, and the states are expected to set up the remaining capacity.
  • Progress: As of July 2023, STPs capable of treating 2,665 MLD have been commissioned and are operational. The progress had been slower in the earlier years due to issues like land acquisition and revisions in Detailed Project Reports.
  • Funding: The government has given in-principle approval for projects worth ₹37,396 crore, out of which ₹14,745 crore has been released to states for infrastructure work as of June 2023.
  • Water Quality: The water quality in the Ganga River has improved to meet the prescribed limits of primary bathing water quality. This improvement is indicated by an increase in the population of dolphins and the presence of clean-water fish species.
    • Parameters such as dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, and faecal coliform levels vary along different stretches of the river. The NMCG is working on developing a water quality index similar to the air quality index to better communicate river-water quality.

In summary, the National Mission for Clean Ganga is an ongoing initiative in India to clean and rejuvenate the Ganga River. While there has been progress in setting up sewage treatment plants and improving water quality, challenges remain in achieving the mission's ambitious goals. The presence of dolphins and clean-water fish species is seen as a positive sign of improving river health.

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)


  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), also known as Namami Gange, is a comprehensive initiative launched by the Government of India in 2014 with the aim of cleaning and rejuvenating the Ganga River.
  • The Ganga River, one of the most sacred and revered rivers in India, has been facing severe pollution and environmental degradation due to various anthropogenic activities. The NMCG was established to address these issues and restore the ecological and cultural significance of the river.

Features of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

Comprehensive Approach

  • NMCG adopts a holistic approach to tackle the various sources of pollution affecting the Ganga River. This includes addressing industrial pollution, sewage discharge, and solid waste management, recognizing that multiple factors contribute to the river's degradation.
  • Comprehensive planning ensures that the mission's efforts are not limited to one aspect of pollution but encompass all relevant areas.

Multi-sectoral Collaboration

  • NMCG involves collaboration between multiple ministries and stakeholders at both the central and state levels.
  • Ministries such as the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, as well as state governments, play a crucial role. This collaborative approach ensures that efforts are coordinated and resources are pooled for maximum impact.

Technology Adoption

  • NMCG emphasizes the use of modern technologies for monitoring and cleaning the Ganga. Advanced monitoring systems and data analysis help in tracking pollution levels and assessing the effectiveness of cleanup efforts.
  • Innovative technologies are employed for wastewater treatment, waste management, and river surface cleaning.

Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs)

  • The mission focuses on setting up sewage treatment plants (STPs) in towns and cities along the Ganga and its tributaries. These STPs are designed to treat domestic sewage and wastewater before it is discharged into the river.
  • Proper treatment of sewage helps reduce the organic and chemical load on the river.

Industrial Effluent Control

  • Stricter regulations are enforced on industrial units to control and monitor their effluent discharge into the Ganga.
  • Industries are required to implement pollution control measures and adhere to effluent quality standards.
  • Regular inspections and penalties for non-compliance are part of this effort.

Biodiversity Conservation

  • NMCG recognizes the importance of protecting and restoring the biodiversity of the Ganga ecosystem.
  • Initiatives are undertaken to preserve and enhance the river's aquatic life and the surrounding habitat. This includes efforts to conserve fish species and other aquatic organisms.

River Surface Cleaning

  • Regular cleaning of the river surface is carried out to remove floating solid waste, such as plastic debris and other litter. Skimmer boats and other equipment are used for this purpose.
  • Cleaning the surface not only improves the river's aesthetics but also prevents further contamination.

Public Participation

  • Public awareness and participation are actively encouraged through campaigns like "Namami Gange" and "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan."
  • Educational programs and community engagement initiatives help in mobilizing public support for the mission.
  • Citizens are encouraged to adopt eco-friendly practices and contribute to the river's cleanliness.

Significance of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

Environmental Significance

  • Ecological Balance: The Ganga River and its ecosystem are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Cleaning the Ganga is crucial for restoring the river's ecological balance, as pollution and habitat degradation have taken a toll on aquatic life. Many species of fish, turtles, dolphins, and other aquatic organisms depend on the Ganga for survival. A cleaner river provides a healthier habitat for these species to thrive.
  • Water Quality: The Ganga serves as a source of drinking water for millions of people, and its water quality directly affects the health and well-being of the population. Reducing pollution in the river helps ensure the availability of safe and clean drinking water.
  • Biodiversity: The Ganga basin is rich in biodiversity, and its wetlands, floodplains, and forests support a wide range of wildlife. A cleaner Ganga helps in the conservation of this biodiversity and the protection of threatened species.

Cultural and Religious Significance

  • Spiritual Hub: The Ganga River is not only a water body but also a sacred entity in Indian culture and religion. It is believed to be the holiest of all rivers, and its waters are considered purifying and spiritually significant. Millions of Hindus consider the Ganga as the mother goddess and undertake pilgrimages to its banks for ritual purification and prayers.
  • Traditions and Rituals: The Ganga is closely linked to various religious rituals, including cremations and immersion of ashes. People from across India come to the Ganga to perform these rituals, and the river plays a central role in these cultural practices.
  • Historical Significance: The Ganga has been a source of inspiration for art, literature, and philosophy in India for centuries. Preserving the purity and sanctity of the Ganga is vital for safeguarding this cultural heritage.

Socio-economic Significance

  • Livelihoods: Millions of people living in the Ganga basin depend on the river for their livelihoods. This includes fishermen, farmers, boatmen, and those involved in tourism. A cleaner and healthier river directly contributes to their well-being and economic sustenance.
  • Agriculture: The fertile plains of the Ganga basin are a major agricultural region in India. The river's water is used for irrigation, and its cleanliness is essential for maintaining productive agriculture.
  • Tourism: The Ganga attracts tourists from around the world who visit its banks for religious, cultural, and recreational purposes. A clean and rejuvenated Ganga not only enhances the tourism sector but also boosts the local economy.

Steps taken as part of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

Construction of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) to treat domestic sewage

  • Objective: One of the primary sources of pollution in the Ganga is untreated domestic sewage. To address this issue, the NMCG has initiated the construction of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in towns and cities located along the Ganga and its tributaries.
  • Implementation: These STPs are designed to treat sewage and wastewater from urban areas before it is discharged into the river. They employ various treatment technologies to remove pollutants and ensure that the water released into the river meets specified quality standards.
  • Impact: The construction of STPs has significantly reduced the direct discharge of untreated sewage into the Ganga, improving its water quality and overall health.

Stringent regulations on industries to control effluent discharge

  • Objective: Industries are a major source of industrial effluent pollution in the Ganga. NMCG has enforced stricter regulations and standards to control the discharge of industrial effluents into the river.
  • Implementation: Industries are required to adhere to specific effluent quality standards and implement pollution control measures. Regular inspections and monitoring are conducted to ensure compliance.
  • Impact: These measures have led to a reduction in industrial pollution, safeguarding the Ganga from harmful chemicals and pollutants discharged by industries.

Promoting sustainable agriculture practices in the Ganga basin

  • Objective: Agriculture contributes to non-point source pollution through the runoff of fertilizers and pesticides. Promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices is crucial to reduce agricultural pollution.
  • Implementation: Initiatives such as promoting organic farming, efficient water management, and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are encouraged.
  • Impact: Sustainable agriculture practices help minimize the negative impact of agriculture on the Ganga's water quality and surrounding ecosystems.

Afforestation and riverbank protection measures

  • Objective: The Ganga basin's vegetation plays a critical role in stabilizing riverbanks, reducing soil erosion, and improving water quality. Afforestation and riverbank protection are essential for the overall health of the river.
  • Implementation: Afforestation programs involve planting native tree species along the riverbanks and in the surrounding areas. Riverbank protection measures include using natural or engineered methods to prevent erosion.
  • Impact: These efforts contribute to maintaining the integrity of the Ganga's ecosystem, preventing soil erosion, and reducing sedimentation in the river.

Promoting eco-friendly cremation practices

  • Objective: Traditional cremation practices along the Ganga often involve the use of wood and the release of pollutants into the river. Promoting eco-friendly cremation practices is essential to reduce pollution.
  • Implementation: The NMCG encourages the use of alternative cremation methods such as electric crematoriums and CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) cremation to minimize the environmental impact.
  • Impact: Eco-friendly cremation practices help in reducing the release of harmful substances into the Ganga and its tributaries.

Regular monitoring of water quality and pollution levels

  • Objective: Monitoring is a critical aspect of the NMCG to assess the effectiveness of pollution control measures and identify areas that require further attention.
  • Implementation: Advanced monitoring systems, including real-time water quality monitoring stations, are set up at various points along the Ganga. These systems continuously measure parameters such as dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, and chemical contamination.
  • Impact: Timely data collection and analysis enable authorities to take corrective actions and make informed decisions to manage and mitigate pollution effectively.

Promotion of public awareness and participation

  • Objective: Public awareness and engagement are crucial for the success of the mission. Educating the public about the importance of the Ganga and its conservation fosters a sense of responsibility and participation.
  • Implementation: The NMCG conducts awareness campaigns, educational programs, and community engagement activities to involve the public. Initiatives like "Namami Gange" and "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" encourage citizens to adopt eco-friendly practices and contribute to the river's cleanliness.
  • Impact: Public participation increases support for the mission and helps in the preservation of the Ganga's cleanliness and cultural significance.

Challenges faced by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

Population Pressure

  • The Ganga basin is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, and the population pressure continues to grow. Rapid urbanization, increased agricultural activities, and the expansion of industries have put immense stress on the river.
  • The higher population density leads to increased sewage discharge, solid waste generation, and agricultural runoff, all of which contribute to pollution in the Ganga.

Industrial Pollution

  • Industrial pollution remains a significant concern along the Ganga. Many industries discharge effluents and pollutants into the river, often without proper treatment.
  • These industrial effluents contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals that can severely degrade water quality and harm aquatic life.

Limited Infrastructure

  • While significant progress has been made in constructing sewage treatment plants (STPs), there are still areas with inadequate infrastructure for sewage treatment and solid waste management.
  • Insufficient infrastructure leads to the direct discharge of untreated sewage and waste into the Ganga, negating the efforts in other areas.

Resource Allocation

  • Sustaining the funding and resources required for a massive and long-term project like the NMCG can be challenging. Funding constraints can limit the implementation of key initiatives.
  • Inadequate resources can slow down or hinder the progress of the mission, impacting the timeline for achieving its goals.

Way Forward

Continued Investment

  • Funding Sources: Identify and diversify funding sources, including government allocations, private sector partnerships, and international grants. Explore innovative financing mechanisms such as green bonds or public-private partnerships.
  • Budget Allocation: Ensure that a significant portion of the budget is allocated to critical areas like wastewater treatment plants, riverbank restoration, and public awareness campaigns.
  • Long-term Planning: Develop a multi-year budget and investment plan that outlines financial commitments and priorities over several years, ensuring stability and continuity.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Community Outreach: Establish community-based programs to educate and involve local communities in river conservation efforts. Encourage their participation in monitoring water quality, reporting pollution incidents, and implementing eco-friendly practices.
  • NGO Partnerships: Forge partnerships with local and international NGOs with expertise in environmental conservation. Collaborate on projects, share knowledge, and tap into their networks for support.
  • Civil Society Involvement: Organize regular town hall meetings, workshops, and forums to engage civil society in policy discussions and decision-making processes related to river cleanup and conservation.

Technological Innovation

  • Pollution Monitoring Systems: Implement real-time pollution monitoring systems along the river's course. Use data analytics and machine learning to predict pollution trends and identify pollution sources.
  • Green Technologies: Promote and fund research into eco-friendly technologies for sewage treatment, industrial waste management, and agricultural runoff control.
  • Information Dissemination: Develop user-friendly mobile apps or websites to provide the public with access to real-time water quality data and pollution alerts.

Legal Framework

  • Legislative Revisions: Conduct a comprehensive review of existing environmental laws and regulations. Identify gaps and inconsistencies and work with policymakers to amend and strengthen them.
  • Strict Enforcement: Establish dedicated environmental enforcement agencies or units with adequate resources and authority to monitor and penalize violators effectively.
  • Public Awareness: Educate the public about the importance of complying with environmental regulations and the consequences of violations.

International Collaboration

  • Knowledge Exchange: Partner with international organizations, research institutions, and governments that have experience in river conservation. Share data, research findings, and best practices.
  • Technical Assistance: Seek technical assistance and capacity-building support from international experts and organizations for specialized tasks such as water quality assessment, river ecosystem restoration, and pollution control technologies.
  • Global Conventions: Align efforts with international environmental agreements and conventions relevant to river conservation, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga is a critical initiative aimed at restoring the Ganga River to its pristine glory, and its success is essential not only for India's environment but also for its cultural and spiritual heritage. Ongoing commitment, public awareness, and sustained efforts are crucial for achieving the mission's objectives.


  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has the potential to positively impact the environment, economy, and the lives of millions. However, it faces significant challenges, including stakeholder coordination and funding constraints. To succeed, NMCG must embrace an integrated approach, involving various stakeholders and ensuring transparency and accountability. Its success can serve as a model for harmonizing cultural, spiritual, and ecological values. NMCG holds the promise of a cleaner, healthier Ganga and contributes to India's broader sustainable development objectives.

Must Read Articles:

NATIONAL MISSION TO CLEAN GANGA: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/national-mission-to-clean-ganga

NATIONAL MISSION FOR CLEAN GANGA: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/national-mission-for-clean-ganga


Q. How does the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) align with India's broader goals for sustainable development, and what specific challenges and opportunities must be addressed to ensure the successful realization of NMCG's objectives