Environment activists and water experts have called for an integrated and holistic study on the status of Ganga River Basin — from its origin at Gomukh to Gangasagar, where it falls in the Bay of Bengal — so that measures can be taken to protect and conserve the ancient holy river.
The experts were discussing various concerns facing River Ganga and the possible solutions for them, at a two-day International conference on “Incessant Ganga” organised by Bihar government, which kicked off in Patna on Saturday.
Expressing concern over the rights of the river, author and environmentalist Vandana Shiva said an ecological perspective was required to save the river that was being affected by climate changes, inorganic farming and development in the hills. “An integrated study would tell us better about what problems are being faced where, which could help in taking up an organised campaign to save the river,” she said.
Gandhian environmentalist and Chipko Movement founder Chandi Prasad Bhatt said Ganga cannot be seen in isolation as it was hugely affected by whatever happened in the Himalayan range. “We have to find out indigenous ways to reduce the impact of rising temperature and destruction due to rains,” he said. Bhatt suggested an international front comprising representatives of India, Nepal, Bhutan and China, that would work for environmental conservation in the Himalayan region.
Magsaysay award recipient and waterman of India, Rajendra Singh talked about the negative impact Bihar would face if it supports National Waterway 1 – between Allahabad and Haldia. He also pitched for a study on River Ganga and extended support of the Bihar government went forward with one.
Bihar has been at the receiving end with floods caused by River Ganga and its tributaries becoming an annual affair in the state. The Bihar government has thus convened the conference to find out measures that would maintain the characteristic flow of the river and reduce chances of deluges.
About 50 research papers by delegates from India and abroad will be presented at the conference on topics such as geomorphic diversity as river management tool, rights of river to flow free, water museum, modeling monsoon flows,silt management mechanism, barrages and river pollution.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is against the creation of National Waterway 1, said that while Namami Gange talks of “nirmalta”, it does not talk of “aviralta” that is necessary for stopping floods as well as keeping it clean.“Whether Farakka barrage stays or gets decommissioned, our concern is that the sedimentation due to blockage of water there should be tackled,” he said, adding that the outcomes of the two-day conference will be taken forward by the Bihar government.