Mission Clean Ganga

Centre sets ‘minimum river flows’ for the Ganga


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ecological Flow

Mains level: River planning initiatives in India



  1. In a first, the Union Govt. has mandated the Minimum quantity of water or Ecological flow as it’s called in scientific circles that various stretches of the Ganga must necessarily have all through the year.
  2. The new norms would require projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance.

Ecological Flow for Ganga

  1. The National Mission for Clean Ganga has laid down the mandatory flow specifications.
  2. The upper stretches of the Ganga from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar would have to maintain:
  • 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season;
  • 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May;
  • 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
  1. For the main stem of the Ganga from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao, Uttar Pradesh — the notification specifies minimum flow at various barrages:
  • Bhimgoda (Haridwar) must ensure a minimum of 36 cubic metres per second (cumecs) between October-May, and 57 cumecs in the monsoon;
  • Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur must maintain a minimum of 24 cumecs in the non-monsoon months of October-May, 48 cumecs during the monsoon months of June-September.

Norms for on-stream Project

  1. The compliance of minimum environmental flow is applicable to all existing, under-construction and future projects.
  2. Power projects that don’t meet these norms as yet would be given three years to comply and “mini and micro projects” would be exempt from these requirements.
  3. The flow conditions in these river reaches will be monitored at hourly intervals from time to time.
  4. The Central Water Commission (CWC) would be the designated authority to collect relevant data and submit flow monitoring-cum-compliance reports on a quarterly basis to the NMCG.
  5. The concerned project developers or authorities will have to install automatic data acquisition and data transmission facilities at appropriate locations at project sites within six months.
  6. The Central Government through NCMG may direct release of additional water in the River Ganga to meet special demand as and when required.

Ecological Flow is yet undisclosed

  1. The government hasn’t disclosed the existing ecological flows at these stretches while setting the minimum levels due to certain strategic reasons.
  2. Flow data isn’t made public by the CWC because it can be used by neighbouring countries to put pressure regarding hydro-electric projects.
  3. The flow will not necessarily represent what’s needed for the ideal health of the river.
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