Ganga: Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting
| Onkareshwar Pandey - Editor in Chief - CEO, IOP - 22 Dec 2021

BOOK REVIEW

The Book “Ganga: Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting” jointly authored by two civil servants Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director-General and Puskal Upadhyay, former Director (Finance), NMCG, who have served the cause of Ganga through National Mission for Clean Ganga  have penned down chronological journey of the NMCG as insiders so far, overcoming challenges of over-exploitation of its waters for development and other purposes, age-old beliefs and traditions, their collaboration with Central and state government and district administrations to achieve their goals. The book is their story of understanding Ganga, getting connected to it and then trying their best to rejuvenate it. Ganga rejuvenation sounds simple to proclaim, but the challenge is more than a handful. The authors recall their bewilderment at the unfolding of the different layers of the problem, like an onion, only this appears not one but many.

By Onkareshwar Pandey

How do you even begin to think of Re-imagining, Rejuvenating and Reconnecting with Ma Ganga, India’s longest and most revered river, that traverses, along with its tributaries through eleven states and provides livelihood to nearly 43% of the country’s population?

The dilemma facing the officials of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was not just the enormity of the task at hand, but also having to bear the scar of past failures.

A legacy that will haunt them at every step throughout their long, complex, and daunting journey.

From the beginning, the organization had realized the importance of a radically different and holistic approach to resolve the “wicked problem”, which not only included stakeholders from different strata of society with their needs and aspirations, but also the clash of ideas on the road ahead from different intellectuals and well-wishers.

Hence, the scope of the mission was expanded to include afforestation, tributaries clean-up, nurturing of wetlands, natural springs and redevelopment of old ghats.

This insider account of two change makers chronicles the journey of the NMCG so far, overcoming challenges of over-exploitation of its waters for development and other purposes, age-old beliefs and traditions, their collaboration with Central and state government and district administrations to achieve their goals.

More importantly, it brought back some of the love and respect of the people for its Mother Goddess.

The authors are civil servants and consider it an opportunity to have served the cause of Ganga. The book is their story of understanding Ganga, getting connected to it and then trying their best to rejuvenate it. Ganga rejuvenation sounds simple to proclaim, but the challenge is more than a handful. The authors recall their bewilderment at the unfolding of the different layers of the problem, like an onion, only this appears not one but many.

Their despair to do something and the desperation to find a solution and anxiety to meet the expectations of a nation makes one get a feel of the environment in the only organization assigned with this task, National Mission for Clean Ganga.

The story is not only about Ganga rejuvenation, it is also about the organization which is making this happen. Starting with a handful of resources and in no time having a mega budget with an unsurmountable responsibility would make anyone wonder how they have survived. And they have actually more than survived with an enviable record of project preparation, sanction and execution, unheard and unseen in government environment.

Ganga Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting Replete with personal experiences of finding solutions under extreme conditions, working without manpower and innovating ways to meet the challenges at hand, the book is as much a read in project management and start up story, to make an interesting example to be emulated.

Building a team and its own capacity, while making its core objective happen is something that should interest any of us The authors provide a factual and realistic information about the developments for the cause of Ganga rejuvenation explaining basic concepts like environmental flow, rejuvenation as compared to cleaning and basin planning in a subtle manner, making anyone understand the issue from basics.

Status of different projects in states and cities will address the concerns of anyone who thinks nothing happens in such projects. It is not about the successes & achievements alone but about the fears and failures, incomplete objectives and enormity of the challenge. The book assures us that a job well begun is half done and shows a path for the future as well.

The chapter titled “The Ganga in 2050: Clean, Free Flowing and still the Goddess of Millions” is the highpoint of the book, giving us a clear insight about a Ganga forever and lists challenges that would need to be addressed on the way to achieving its sustainability forever.

The authors have a very interesting perspective on ownership of the river and environment by the people and bring out People River connect as a sine qua non for a rejuvenated Ganga. Replete with quotes from many other credible texts and examples from mythology and history, this can be a one stop shop for all our concerns on Ganga and its future.

The chapters of the book veer and meander with the flow of Ganga, appearing exactly in same sequence as the mighty rivers traverses the northern plains, giving us a feel of involvement. Unlike many other treatises on this complex subject the authors present the concepts, thoughts and facts with an equal ease, linking myth and reality and present a factual status justifying an honest effort, practical achievements and realistic expectations.

With a very personal account of why Ganga matters and an emotional take on call of Ganga to get into the assignment makes their job, a real one in an otherwise dry environment, sound like a religion.

The book ends with “Letter to my readers” which is a unique conversation which concludes poetically but poignantly that if you don’t disturb, pollute, defile or block the river’s path, it will always remain pure, it will then bring all the goodness of nature and help us live a happy, healthy and prosperous life. This cannot be too much to ask.

The authors are categorical that task is not over yet, much more needs to be done. However, the successful journey so far, as demonstrated by the findings of this book, is a testament to the fact that a job well begun is not just half done, but provides a roadmap for the future success of the mission.

Authors:

Rajiv Ranjan Mishra

During his two separate stints at the National Mission for Clean Ganga, first as a Mission Director and then as the Director-General, Mr. Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, an Indian Administrative Officer of the 1987 batch, virtually changed the discourse on Ganga rejuvenation, and its longterm sustenance. He expanded the scope of the Mission to include the entire ecosystem of the river, its basin and the clean-up of its tributaries, and other pollutants that have been defiling the river for centuries. He has also tried to restore the age-old connection between the Mother Goddess and her disciples, through measures like redevelopment of river fronts and ghats and has also developed a new planning paradigm for River Cities. A mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur, he brings with him a wealth of experience in developing and managing major projects in irrigation, environment, urban development and housing both at the Centre and in the states. He is also credited with the enactment and implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, and is also now leading the National River Conservation Programme, which deals with all rivers other than Ma Ganga.

Puskal Upadhyay

One of the pioneers of the government’s clean-Ganga initiative, Mr Puskal Upadhyay, a civil engineer turned civil servant and a finance professional was orchestrating the clean Ganga initiative with his seniors, even before Namami Gange was launched. He has played a critical role in developing the building blocks of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) during its formative years as Director (Finance). He had been instrumental in developing the highlysuccessful public-private partnership-based Hybrid Annuity Model for Namami Gange. His contribution to the design and launch of the National Pension System (NPS) is no less important, as is his work with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. He regularly volunteers for and mentors Tree Craze Foundation, an NGO in their community-led river cleanup activities. A civil engineer from NIT Jamshedpur, he joined the Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS) in 1998, and is currently the Financial Advisor in New Delhi Municipal Council.


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(Onkareshwar Pandey is Founder, Editor in Chief & CEO, Indian Observer Post and former Senior Group Editor- Rashtriya Sahara (Hindi & Urdu) and also former Editor, (News), ANI. http://bit.ly/2mh7hih Email - SMS- 9910150119)


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