Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Particulars of the Draft Bill
Mains level: Maintaining ecological flow of River Ganga
Draft Ganga Bill, 2018
- The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority, according to the proposed ‘Ganga Act’.
- The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018, proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long banks.
- The bill declares that the Centre will take control of the management, regulation and development of Ganga as the river is of unique importance.
- It defines Ganga as India’s National River.
For Maintenance of Ecological Flow
- The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the uninterrupted, ecological flow of the river.
- Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed say several activists and researchers, and persistent campaigns notably led by the late G.D. Agrawal.
- This led government finally recognising the need for proposed and existing hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum flows all through the year.
Cognizable offences under the act
The Bill has listed out a list of offences marked as cognizable which includes:
- construction activities causing obstruction in the river,
- withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries;
- commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries;
- discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.
Preventing Unauthorized Activities
- The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorized” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Gang due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water.
- Carrying out such activities are liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.
- The legislation looms even as the government is developing a National Waterways Project-1 (River Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi (1,390 km).
- The waterways project involves creating permanent and movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-silting to ensure that minimum river depths for the smooth movement of the vessels.
Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC)
- The Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) personnel will be provided by the ministry of home affairs and will be deployed by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
- The GPC personnel will have power to arrest those who pollute the river covering offences like obstructing the flow of the river to commercial fishing.
Section 54 : A Contentious Clause
- Section 54 of the bill on offences by companies, states that if an offence is committed by a company, every person who in charge of the company when the offence is committed and the company will be deemed guilty.
- But if the in-charge is able to prove that the offence was committed without his or her knowledge or that they exercised due diligence to prevent the offence, they will not be punished under the act.
- This section first strongly puts the onus of those heading operations and activities of companies that are damaging the river.
- But then promptly adds a protective clause by saying that action will not be taken if the offence was taken without his or her knowledge.