Why shipping in Ganga may not be that good an idea

The government is ignoring the hydrology of the river as it focuses on developing waterways along it, says river scientist and former BHU professor UK Chaudhary

GN Bureau | June 16, 2016


#Nitin Gadkari   #Narendra Modi   #Varanasi   #Ganga   #BHU   #Shipping  
Prime minister Narendra Modi at Asi ghat in Varanasi
Prime minister Narendra Modi at Asi ghat in Varanasi

The government has planned to promote navigation in rivers, including the mighty Ganga. Union minister for road transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari has set a target to increase the share of water transport to 15 percent from the current share of 3.5 percent by 2019.

The national waterways bill passed by the parliament earlier this year converts 101 rivers into a national waterway which will create approximately 14,500 km of navigable waterways in the country.

However, this ambitious project may hinder the Ganga (2,525 km) rejuvenation plan of the government.

River scientist and former professor at IIT-BHU, Prof UK Chaudhary says, “The potential of a river to meet requirements for various purposes is limited. It is not infinite. One has to understand this while extracting Ganga water for different purposes.”

“The government is completely ignoring the hydrology of Indian rivers. For example, in Ganga, you ply ships only if there is sufficient depth. If you increase the depth of the river via dredging, you will disturb its natural course. For a month the water transport will be smooth, but after a while the river will take its own course. The river bed will try to come to its natural form,” he says.

He added that the shipping in Ganga can further lead to more problems. “As the ships will run on petrol or diesel, the river will get polluted, and aquatic life will get disturbed. The other problem will be erosion or sedimentation of the river bed. When the ship moves in the direction of the flow of the river, it will change the natural river [flow] and hence will cause erosion of the sand bed. Similarly, if the ship moves in opposite direction it will lead to sedimentation,” the river scientist said ahead of a discussion on the Ganga economics held in Varanasi recently.

“There are several such developmental projects which are harnessing river water at the cost of the health of the river. One such example is the Asi ghat in Varanasi which was an ambitious project of the central government. Many people don’t know that the Modi-led work on re-building this ghat in Varanasi has shifted the river 60 metres away.”

He believes that selling Ganga jal can be more economical than shipping in Ganga.

“I believe there is nothing wrong in selling Ganga water via India Post. At least, it doesn’t harm the health of the river and costs nothing. You can make millions out of it and invest the same, if you wish, on rejuvenation of the river,” he said.
 

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