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Water experts ask Centre to put river Ganga’s national waterways project on hold | The Hindu

A boat ferrying people passes an underconsruction bridge across Ganga in Doriganj, Bihar. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi

PATNA: Scientists, researchers, policy makers and social activists from India, Bangladesh and Nepal on Sunday asked the Indian government to put on hold the project of National Waterways No-1 (from Haldia to Allahabad in river Ganga), until a scientific study of impact of dredging on erosion is done.

“The dredging for National Waterways-1 (NW-1) is increasing erosion in Ganga River in Bihar. Hence, the project should be put on hold until a scientific study of impact of dredging,” they said in a resolution passed on Sunday at the end of a two-day international conference on Incessant Ganga, held at a local hotel.

Earlier while inaugurating the conference on Saturday, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said people of Bihar would oppose the centre’s decision to dredge the river bed to ensure more depth of water for navigation of big vessels on the National Waterways No-1. Nitish said, the dredging work would not only kill dolphins but also cause imbalance in Ganga’s ecosystem. The Centre is developing NW-1 under the Jal Marg Vikas Project, with assistance from the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 4,200 crore. The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tons. Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch that’s major portion passes through Bihar.

In another resolution, passed at the international conference hosted by the water resources department of Bihar government, the scientists, researchers and policy makers from the three nations demanded a time-bound comprehensive study on cause of silting due to Farakka Barrage.

“Farakka Barrage must be reviewed to assess the benefits, costs and future scenario in view of upper stream siltation and downstream erosion. The review must consider (a) Alternatives like converting gates to under-sluices; (b) Decommissioning Farakka and making a new barrage with under-sluices to revive Bhagirathi; and (c) Hydrological revival of Bhagirathi by increasing flow in western tributaries like the Damodar,” they said in another resolution, called Patna Declaration.

They also resolved to mobilise people in different riparian states of Ganga including Bihar and West Bengal to launch “Farakka Khol Do, Bihar ko badh vibhisika se bachao” movement, which will be launched on the occasion of centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagrah.

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