National Mission for Clean Ganga


The Ganga River is among the largest rivers in Asia, flowing for roughly over 2,500 km, from Goumukh in Uttarakhand to the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal, covering 26% of India’s landmass. It is a trans-boundary river forming the world’s largest delta, Sunderbans, spread across India and Bangladesh. As the remnants of the eastern edge of the Tethys Sea, the Ganga Basin is home to a wide variety of relic, rare and threatened species. These include the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica), three species of otters viz. the Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and the Small clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus), the Critically Endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), Mugger or Indian marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and at least 12 species of freshwater turtles, including the Critically Endangered Batagur kachuga. Within the Ganga River system, 143 different freshwater fish species, belonging to 11 orders, 32 families and 72 genera have been reported including the Critically Endangered Ganges shark (Glyphis gangeticus), Gangetic stingray (Himantura fluviatilis), Golden mahseer (Tor putitora) and Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha).

Spread across 11 states, the Ganga Basin covers an area of roughly 1 million km2. The Basin is among the most densely populated river basins in the world, supporting more than 100 Class I and II cities and towns, and thousands of villages. The ever-increasing demand for development has resulted in water scarcity and water quality degradation throughout the basin. Nearly all of the sewage, rarely treated, from these settlements enters the basin’s waterways. In addition to these domestic and industrial pollutants, hundreds of human corpses and thousands of animal carcasses are released in to the river each day as spiritual rites. Population pressures, paucity of investment in water quality infrastructure and a lack of empowerment of the people continue to contribute to the deteriorating state of the Ganga.

The aquatic wildlife of the Ganga basin, including the main stem Ganga River, is in peril due to reduction in water level, pollution and over exploitation of riverine resources, leading to habitat degradation. The increasing human population, industrial development, deforestation, fragmentation of river systems by various barriers and water scarcity and reduced water flow due to diversion and unregulated abstraction have had serious adverse impacts on aquatic species, particularly fish, with a steady decline seen in the populations of several species, including the commercially exploited hilsa, golden mahseer as well as other catfish and minnows. Additionally, obligate aquatic species like waterbirds and island nesting birds are greatly impacted due to the change in the system.

Earlier efforts to restore the Ganga River focused largely on engineering-based approaches for water quality maintenance and lacked efforts to involve local communities in the restoration process. As a result, the desired success in restoring the Ganga River was not achieved. The Government of India established the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) with a view to address the issue of Ganga at the basin level so as to maintain its water quality, ecological flows, biodiversity value and sustained ecosystem services. National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). It is a registered society originally formed by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. As per the 306th amendment in the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, both NGRBA and NMCG were allocated to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR,RD&GR). The Secretary to the Government of India, MoWR,RD&GR is the current chairman of the Governing Council of NMCG. At the national level, NMCG is the coordinating body, supported by States Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs), also registered as societies under Societies Registration Act, 1860, of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal and a dedicated Nodal Cell in Jharkhand.

The area of operation of NMCG shall be the Ganga River Basin, including the states through which the Ganga flows, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The area of operation may be extended, varied or altered in future, by the Governing Council to such other states through which major tributaries of the Ganga River flow and as NGRBA may decide for the purpose of effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the Ganga.

NMCG is initiated with a comprehensive approach to champion the challenges posed to Ganga through four different sectors, namely, wastewater management, solid waste management, industrial pollution and river front development. It has developed a comprehensive strategy to restore the biodiversity value of the Ganga River with the ultimate goal to achieve the NMCG long term vision for Ganga River Conservation so that viable populations of all endemic and endangered aquatic species occupy their full historical range and fulfil their role in maintaining the integrity of the Ganga River ecosystems. The proximate goal is to ensure that by 2020, a significant reduction of threats to the species diversity of the Ganga River, either currently endangered or are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, is achieved.

Sand mining Waste dumping into the river Waste dumping the banks river Illegal fishing

Some glimpses of threats to aqualife of Ganga:
a) Sand mining; b) Waste dumping into the river and c) on the banks and d) Illegal fishing
©Upma Manral (a), Surya P. Sharma (b), Narendra Mohan (c), Rahul Kumar (d)