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   Importance of Ganga river
   Hydropower projects on upper ganga
   History of power projects
   Environmental impacts of Hydro-power projects
   Ecological impacts of Hydro-power projects
   Spiritual and cultural value destroyed
   Campaign to save the Ganga
   Recommendations by experts
   Dams on Ganga
   Facts on Ganga

  Importance of Ganga river

  River Ganga (गंगा)  holds great importance in the economic, social and cultural life of the Indian people in general and Hindus in particular. In India the River Ganga is worshipped and revered as a living entity, as a goddess and a mother. In the Bhagavat Gita, Lord Krishna declares: "Among the water sources, I am the Ganga." Swami Vivekananda (1863- 1902) said: "The Gita and the Ganga constitute the Hinduism of the Hindus" 
  Ganga is our national river and have place in the National Anthem of India, Jana Gana Mana, composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore before 100 years on December 27, 2011 as    
   विंध्य - हिमाचल - यमुना -गंगा    उच्छल -जलधि तरंग
  [ Vindhya - Himachal - Yamuna  - Ganga   Uchhal Jaldhi Taranga] 
 The Ganga was declared as the National River in November 2008, but it continued to be abused and exploited openly. Still ongoing construction of dams/barrages/tunnels on Ganga which would totally destroy the natural flow regimes and quality of the river water.
  "Every country has introduced a code of conduct and discipline for its citizens towards its national symbol. Similarly, the Ganga ought to get the same status legally and nationally as other symbols," said Rajendra Singh, popularly known as Waterman, adding that disrespect to the National Flag was a punishable offence. Moreover, it was the civic consciousness that was more important. The river has always been an emblem of faith for millions of Indians. For pilgrims coming from all over India, the lively flow in the uppermost reaches of the river is symbolic of the goddess descending from the heavens. 
   The Ganga Action Plan undertaken in 1985 by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to clean the Ganga but crores of rupees spent on it went into the drain due to poor planning and mismanagement of funds by agencies.

  Gangotri 
     Gangotri     
  
  Alalkananda- Bagirthi meets
  The Bhagirathi (left) joins with the Alaknanda (right) in Devprayag and
is known as the Ganga from this point onwards. 
   Ganga river near Rishikesh
 Ganga river near Rishikesh in Uttaranchal
 

   Hydropower projects on upper ganga

   The river is as polluted as ever while work on the hydel projects are continuing. In all, 193 projects are proposed to be executed on the Alakananda, the Mandakini and the Bhagirathi, the three major tributaries of the Ganga. Environmental impact assessment studies have been completed or are under way with respect to 40 of these projects.    


     Power projects on Ganga river 
 
  In some cases, as in the case of the Kotli Bhel and Vishnugad Pipalkoti projects, environmental clearances have been given or are under consideration despite serious objections from experts and activists. Other projects, such as the Srinagar hydro project, 80 per cent of the civil work has been completed after the usual court battles.
   
     Alaknanda Hydro Power Plant
    
Alaknanda Hydro Power Plant
  
Alaknanda Hydro Power Plant A 330 MW hydro project is underway in Uttarakhand. With most construction work in progress, the plant is expected to commence operations in 2012. A power purchase agreement has been signed with the state of Uttar Pradesh. The second Gori Ganga Hydro 370 MW power plant is being developed in Pittorgarh, Uttarkhand at an estimated project cost of USD 650 million and expected to be commissioned by 2016. The Government of Uttarkhand has granted its approval.
  The health of rivers in Uttarakhand has deteriorated substantially due to violation of environment laws by various hydroelectric projects in the hill State. Important rivers such as the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda are either disappearing downstream of dams or are being used as dumping ground.
   TEHRI DAM PROJECT : World’s fifth and Asia’s largest hydro-electric project has been constructed on river Bhagirithi, a tributary of Ganga in Tehri district of Uttaranchal. The height of the earth and rockfill dam is 260.5 m, making it the highest dam in the country. Once fully operational, the project will produce 1000 MW electricity. But the Garbage dumped in the Tehri dam reservoir has made the Bhagirathi ‘untouchable’ for even local residents.
    Tehri dam
    Tehri dam and power ptoject

    

   Most of hydroelectric power projects in the Ganga’s Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins have come up in the teeth of public opposition with even water experts from IIT Roorkee having warned that even the minimum water flow in the Ganges had been adversely affected with their construction. It was keeping this in mind that the former environment minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, had issued a stop work order on the Srinagar project on June 30, 2011. The order has not been withdrawn even though work on the hydro-project is continuing till date. MoEF’s expert appraisal committee examined environmental violations in Phata-Byung and Singoli-Bhatai projects on the Mandakini had twice recommended work be halted due to green violations.
   Companies like GMR, L&T, GVK are constructing at least a dozen hydel projects on the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers. The three main tributaries of the Ganga are under the scanner of anti-dam activists, who claim that hydel projects are causing pollution and reducing their flow. 
   Anti-graft activist  Anna Hazre on March 22, 2012 told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately convene a meeting of the Ganga Basin Authority, and stop construction of dams on the Ganga till a decision is taken by the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA)..Stating that the Ganga has an important place in the hearts of people, he said the dams built on the river in the hill state were hindering its flow leading to pollution in it.
                                                                                                                                             

   History of power projects
  In 1917, the then British Government came out with a plan to check the flood flow of the River Ganga at Haridwar.  Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya(1861-1946), an a handful of public spirited Hindu Kings from the Princely States of India and all the Sankaracharyas joined together and presented a united front to the Government in protest against their proposal to interfere with the flow of the River Ganga at Haridwar. The sensible British Government relented. Mr R. Burns I.C.S., Chief Secretary of the United Provinces passed a Government Order Number 102, dated 20/4/1917 declaring the commitment and assurance of Government "to maintain a free flow of the Ganga."   
   The Central and state  governments after Independence have ignored the British commitment and built several dams upstream of Haridwar. Projects on Bhagirathi Ganga 
* Bhairon Ghati I (380MW): In the planning stage.
* Bhairon Ghati II (65 MW): Also in the planning stage. 
* Loharinag-Pala (600 MW): NTPC began construction over two years ago. Roads, tunnels, a coffer dam. 
* Pala-Maneri (480 MW): Construction work inaugurated on June 11, 2008. 
* Maneri-Bhali I (90 MW): A barrage built in the 1970s. 
* Maneri-Bhali II (304 MW): Under construction dams on the Bhagirathi barrage between Gangotri and Haridwar. 

   Professor G D Agarwal  undertook an indefinite fast in June 2008 against the `implementation of many environmentally disastrous hydro-electric power projects on the 125 KM stretch of the `Ganga River` from `Gangotri to Uttarkashi. His fast unto death evoked a very popular response leading to wide-spread and massive public protest. This forced the Uttarakhand State Government to review these projects and to stop work at Pala Maneri and Bhairon Ghati (both I & II). Professor Agarwal again went on a fast-unto-death for 38 days from 13 January, 2009 to 20 February, 2009. He broke his fast after the Government   gave him a written assurance to the effect that the Loharinag Pala project would be reviewed by a high-level expert group. 
  In February 2009, the Government of India announced the setting up of a *National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).  The Central Government has given the Ganga  the status of a National River. Prof. G.D. Agarwal’s third fast-unto-death which  entered its second day on 22nd July 2010. Swami Ramdev also went and met Dr. Agrawal  and offered his full support to his Ganga Bachao Fast Unto Death. On 20th August 2010 the Union Group of Ministers decided to scrap the 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River in Uttarakhand.
 
Prof. G.D. Agarwal’s fourth fast-unto-death started on February 8, 2012. Now he is demanding that all hydroelectric projects on the tributaries of the Ganga be stopped in order to maintain the purity of the river, allow its continuous flow, and protect the flora and fauna in the river basin zone. His fast ended on March 23, 2012
  People's  mass movements,  many outstanding environmentalists and  religious groups have been carrying on a heroic struggle to save the Ganga  from total extinction between  Gangotri and Haridwar during the last five years. It is also a spiritual victory for Prof. G.D Agarwal who went on a fast- unto -death four times  to press for the stoppage of the 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River. Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand says more than Rs 12,000 crore has already been spent on the Ganga Action Plan I and II. He feels the Rs 15,000 crore package announced by the PM will also disappear into some crevice and the Ganga will stay the same.
   Three prominent members of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) resigned on Saturday evening, citing the PM’s complete lack of interest and inability on saving River Ganga. In an open letter to the PM, who is the chairperson of the NGBRA, the three members — Ravi Chopra, Rajendra Singh and Prof R H Siddiqui — stated that in the three years since its formation, the Authority had failed to achieve anything.
                                                                                                                                                    

    Prof. G.D. Agarwal
    Prof. G D Agarwal 
  
   Swami Nigmanand
   Swami Nigamanand sacrifice to save the Ganga
  
   Anna Hazzre
  Anna Hazre , while expressing solidarity with Agrawal who went on a fast on the issue, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, saying the government should listen to the suggestions of the ailing activist.

    Environmental impacts of Hydro-power projects
   Himalayan villages on the banks of Ganga and its tributaries are nearly water starved because most springs have dried up on account of  blasting , power projects and  dams being built on the river. These power projects, blasts, tunnels, deforestation create a  worst kind of  Environment Pollution  in this Himalayan region. Farm animals are dying, fields are being abandoned and people perforce depend on filthy water supplied in dirty drums through tankers for their drinking water needs.  

    Dried up Ganga after Maneri Bhali
    Dried up Ganga after Maneri Bhali
  
A CAG inspection report submitted to the Uttarakhand governor in April 2010 says that already the riverbed is completely dry at Shrinagar (Garhwal) and what flows downstream is the water released by a power plant from its tunnel and those diverted from tributaries. If all projects are allowed to go through, the aquatic life and biodiversity of the river basin will be virtually erased. Sources said the report also expresses fear that all villages settled along the river basin will be uprooted once the rivers go dry, leading to mass migration and cultural erosion.
  The CAG comes down hard on the state government whose power policy of 2006 allows a private player to divert up to 90% of the river water to power turbines, leaving only 10% to flow in the natural course of the river. The norm world wide is to divert a maximum of 75% of water from a river to prevent the river from drying and to maintain its natural course. Sources said the report attacks the hydro-power policies of the Uttarakhand government for sanctioning at least 53 hydel power projects on the two rivers, which when completed would translate to a dam every 5-7km of the river stretch. While five power projects are already operational out of the 53 sanctioned and under construction, more than 200 are in the pipeline. As a result of such  damming, the report says that 3 to 4km of the riverbed around each project will have no water.
  
Ecological impacts of Hydro-power projects
  
By diverting the Ganga River to flow through tunnels from Gangotri to Uttarkashi not only alters the quality of the Ganga water but also destroys its unique chemical and organic qualities which make it special for countless Indians. The complex ecology dependent on the river water will be devastated if the river is diverted to flow through tunnels. The State should work on harnessing power through alternative sources of energy including solar and wind energy in stead of putting so much at stake for uncertain outcomes in large hydro power projects. 
  As per the report of PSI, these projects will destroy the superior quality of Gangajal. In recent years, the Ganga's unique bactericidal properties at Varanasi have been confirmed by international researchers. Research done at IIT-Kanpur shows that its self-purifying capacity and the colloidal properties are far  higher than other rivers.
  The projects will have serious impacts on the forests and terrestrial vegetation in the valley as well as the aquatic  biota. There will be a severe loss of wild life, migratory fish  species and flora and fauna. Besides, with the loss of scenic stretches of the river, there will be an adverse impact on tourism, which in turn will affect local livelihoods.

   Spiritual and cultural value destroyed
   The Ganga river  runs 1,569 miles long, is highly sacred in Hinduism, and serves as the lifeline for about 400 million Indians. Rising from the snow-melt of the Himalayas and pouring out through Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal, the Ganga runs through varying terrain, sometimes generating slow-moving waters, watersheds, and rocky pathways. Ranked as one of the most populated river basins in the world, pollution has become a known problem, often threatening countless species of fish, amphibians, and even river dolphins. Nevertheless, with tributaries embracing so much human and natural life, the river is considered the personification of the Hindu goddess Ganga, making the place the most sacred river to Hindus.
 The Ganga river is facing problems of reduced flow of water. Reduced water  of river is due to high rate of siltation, encroachment of river banks and major constructions in the river catchments area. The reduced quality of river water is also due to pollution of water induced by discharge of city sewage, industrial effluents and agricultural runoff, cremation of dead bodies, animal bathing and washing of clothes, solid and biomedical waste disposal.
                                                                                                                                                          

   Ganga river
  Ganga is a life-giver for over 400 million people. But unknown to the faithful, the government has planned over 300 dams on its various tributaries to generate electricity for a power- hungry nation, and the move comes despite a government-commissioned green panel report that has recommended scrapping 34 of the dams citing environmental concerns.
  The Dhari Devi temple in Srinagar  Town, Garhwal, now faces an uneasy future. A 330 megawatt dam on the  Alaknanda, one of Ganga's tributaries, may submerge the 17th century temple.

   Campaign to save the Ganga
 
In 2011, Swami Nigamanand  of Matri Sadan undertook a fast unto death demanding an end to illegal sand mining in the Ganga, at least in Haridwar where the Kumbh Mela, a mass Hindu pilgrimage, takes place. The governments, both in Uttarakhand and at the Centre, paid no heed. The swami died after fasting for 115 days.
  Since February 8, 2012  this year,
Prof. G D Agarwal now Swami Swarupanand, a former professor with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and a renowned environmental scientist, has been on a hunger strike demanding that all hydroelectric projects on the tributaries of the Ganga be stopped in order to maintain the purity of the river, allow its continuous flow, and protect the flora and fauna in the river basin zone. Since March 8, Agarwal has given up even water, the only fluid he had consumed until then. Anna Hazare also rose in support of a movement to save the Ganga visited Mr. Aggarwal at the AIIMS on March 21, 2012. The 74-year-old Hazare said, “I will support G.D .Agarwal.  He is fighting for the holy river,” he said. On March 23, 2012 he ended his fast by the positive assurance by Prinmre Minister to call the National River Ganga Basin Authority meet on April 15, 2012.
   Ganga Ahvaan movement a wholly dedicated to the  cause of protection of holy river Ganga against the combined onslaught of of Uttarakhand State and the  Government of India. Ganga Ahvaan movement was initiated by  Ms Priyadarshni Patel, Dr (Mrs.) Meena Khilnani, Ms Mallika Bhanot and Mr Hemant Dhyani. MsPriyadarshni Patel is a social worker. Dr (Mrs.) Meena Khilnani is an Earth Scientist. Ms Mallika Bhanot is a yoga teacher and Mr Hemant Dhyani is a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University doing research in Nano-technology. The Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF) in VARANASI is working to save the Ganga   Shankaracharya of Jyotish Pith and Dwarka Sharda Pith Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati founded Ganga Seva Abhiyanam. 
  In a unique confluence on December 09, 2011, prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders gathered at the banks of the Ganges to appeal for action to save the Holy River. Organised by the Ganga Mahasabha on the 150th anniversary of Madan Mohan Malviya in November, the event was attended by religious representatives from both the majority communities and included Kanchikamkoti Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, Ram Katha Vachak Morari Bapu, Swami Chidanand Maharaj Muni ji, Muslim Personal Law Board’s Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and Lucknow’s Shahi Imam Maulana Fazlur Rahman. 
  All religious leaders spoke movingly about their respect for the Ganges and appealed to the government for urgent action to facilitate its cleaning operations. They also asked people to contribute by not polluting the Holy River. On April 4, 2012 Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati said that despite the assurance from the government, the construction work on hydel projects on the main streams of Gang have not stopped. According to him, the future course of action would be decided after the consultation with Shankaracharya of Jyotish Peeth and Dwarka Sharda Peeth Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati and convener of Ganga Seva Abiyanam Swami Avimukteshwaranad Saraswati.

  Recommendations by experts
 
A noted environmentalist of Banaras Hindu University, Mr B D Tripathi said that the problems plaguing the Ganga can be solved by adopting a triple P, Programme - Policy, Planning and Prevention. There should be a proper policy for increase in water quantity and maintenance of ecological flow, rain water harvesting, ground water recharging, natural cleaning, extraction of water directly from the river and ground water, pollution control technologies and land selection for sewage treatment plants (STPs), major constructions in catchment areas, people's participation in different projects, monitoring of projects, accountability of project leaders, biodiversity conservation, utilisation of youth power and mass awareness. 
   Dams on Ganga

  'Dams stop the natural flow of the river, destroying the river's ecology. They hold the sediments which result in the rivers eroding heavily downstream. It also adversely affects the geological balance by putting high pressure on the sensitive geological area of the Himalayas,' Bahuguna added. India currently has 74 hydro-power projects in the Himalayas with an installed capacity of 15,208 mega watts. Thirty-seven more projects are under construction while over 300 more have been planned.

  The 2,510-km river, which originates from the Gangotri glacier in the central Himalayas, at the confluence of the Bhagirathi, the Mandakini, the Dhauliganga  and the Pindar at Devaprayag, emerges in the pilgrimage town of Haridwar after  journeying 200 km through the Himalayas.
  At Haridwar, a dam channels its waters into seven streams, which merges into the Ganga Canal downstream. The river travels nearly 800 km from Har-ki-Pauri through the city of Kanpur before it merges with the Yamuna river at Sangam in Allahabad. Rishikesh on the Haridwar-Rishikesh highway, has also launched a Bhagirathi-Ganga Bachao Abhiyan to save the river throughout its course from  Gangotri to Ganga Sagar in WB, where the river drains into the Bay of Bengal.

  Facts on Ganga
  Some facts on the most sacred River of India, Ganga.
* River Ganga is about 2506 km long
* The Ganges basin is about 322 to 644 km wide.
* The river Ganga originates at Gangotri glacier on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, 14, 000 feet above sea level.
* River Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join each other at Devprayag to form River Ganga.
* Major pilgrimage places on River Ganga are- Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi and Prayag (Allahabad).
* The mouth of River Ganga forms a vast delta, the Sundarban delta (the largest delta in the world).
* There are two major dams on the Ganga, Tehri dam at Haridwar and the other dam is at Farakka.
 
Vedio on Dams - Google Earth

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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