US$1 billion Support from World Bank for Ganga Clean-up

May 31, 2011

The Project will help set up dedicated institutions and finance priority infrastructure for fighting pollution in the river

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2011 - The World Bank today approved a US$1 billion credit and loan as part of its long-term support for the government’s Mission Clean Ganga that seeks to rejuvenate India’s iconic river. 

The Ganga accounts for one-fourth of the country’s water resources and its sprawling basin is home to more than 400 million Indians, many of whom revere it as a living goddess. Despite its iconic status and religious heritage, the Ganga today is facing extreme pollution pressures and associated threats to its biodiversity and environmental sustainability. An ever-growing population, inadequately planned urbanization, and rapid industrialization have adversely affected water quality in the river.  Today, only about one-third of the sewage generated by the towns and cities on the mainstem of the river is treated; and a significant volume of untreated or poorly treated industrial effluents are also discharged in the Ganga. 

The Government of India established the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in February 2009, with the aim of cleaning and conserving the Ganga through a multi-sector program, with the medium-term goal that that no untreated municipal or industrial wastewater will be allowed to flow into the mainstem of the river after 2020.  The NGRBA Program will focus on the five mainstem states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

“The Ganga is a lifeline for India and is especially critical for the large and important states it flows through.  The lives of the people living here and the economy of these states are largely intertwined with the river.  The Central government and the concerned state governments are working together on the Mission Clean Ganga to conserve this vital resource,” said Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs.  “Earlier efforts to clean the Ganga concentrated on a few highly polluting towns and centers and addressed ‘end-of-the-pipe’ wastewater treatment there; Mission Clean Ganga builds on lessons from the past, and will look at the entire Gangetic basin while planning and prioritizing investments instead of the earlier town-centric approach,” he added.

The World Bank’s National Ganga River Basin Project will help build the capacity of the NGRBA’s new operational institutions to manage the Ganga clean-up and conservation program.  The Project will also help fund priority investments critical for reducing pollution in the river.

“The World Bank is honored to be able to support the government in its efforts to revitalize this holy and mighty river of India,” said Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director for India. “Experience elsewhere in the world has shown that river clean-up is a long-term and costly enterprise -- the cleaning of the Rhine took almost 20 years and more than 40 billion Euros; and that of the Danube is ongoing, decades after it started.  The Government of India is clearly committed to this, has a robust plan of action and is dedicating the required resources for this national effort.  I am confident that with sustained public and political support for the NGRBA Program, significant progress towards cleaning the Ganga will be achieved.”

In addition to helping set up dedicated institutions at the Central and state level to plan, manage and implement the NGRBA Program, the Bank-financed Project will also help set up a state-of-the-art Ganga Knowledge Centre to act as a repository for information and knowledge relevant for the conservation of the river. The Project will also help build the capacity of existing agencies (like the city-level service providers) responsible for operating and managing pollution-control assets like wastewater and sewage treatment plants and sewer networks in cities and towns along the river. It will also help strengthen the Central and State Pollution Control Boards for better monitoring of pollution in the Ganga, by modernizing information systems and providing staff training.

A significant part of the Bank’s support will go towards financing demonstrative investments for reducing pollution in a sustainable manner, in four key sectors: wastewater collection and treatment, industrial pollution control, solid waste management, and riverfront management. “While the majority of these investments will be chosen after the completion of a basin-level analysis, there are some evident pollution hot-spots along the river where investment needs are obvious,” said Sanjay Pahuja, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project.  “The early investments of the NGRBA Program will address some of these priority locations, with World Bank support.” The NGRBA has created a framework to ensure that all investments under the Program are well-prepared, effective in reducing pollution, are socially and environmentally sustainable, and proceed with transparent decision-making.

The Bank’s financing support of US$1 billion (approx Rs. 4,500 crore) approved by its Board of Executive Directors today for the National Ganga River Basin Project complements Rs 500 crore (US$115 million approx) from the Government of India and Rs. 1,900 crore (US$430 million approx) from the governments of the Ganga mainstem states, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Of the total US$1 billion financing from the World Bank the credit for US$199 million is provided by the World Bank’s poverty-focused fund, the International Development Association (IDA), which has 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period. The remaining US$801 million is a low-interest loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 18 years.


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