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Activist sceptical of Gadkari's 'no barrage on Ganga' decision

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Environmentalists on Monday welcomed the news of Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari's volte face on the proposal to build barrages on Ganga for transportation but remained sceptical of his intentions.

Welcoming the decision, water issues activist Sushmita Sengupta described it as a "good" move to ensure the minimum flow in the river.

"Had the government stuck to its previous decision of building barrages on Ganga, it would have disturbed the eco system," she said.

At the first meeting on Ganga rejuvenation plan in June 2014, Gadkari had proposed constructing barrages cum bridges at every 100 km for transportation and navigation of small ships across the river between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Hooghly in West Bengal.

However, the proposal met with opposition from green experts who claimed that such constructions could convert the entire stretch in 16 huge ponds, obstructing the river's continuous flow of water and causing a rise in water pollution levels.

The minister had last week clarified that no barrages would be built on the Varanasi-Haldia stretch as being "wrongly projected" and assured the use of advanced technology to ensure the smooth flow of water in Ganga.

Green activist Bharat Jhunjhunwala however exuded little confidence over Gadkari's announcement, saying the move was perhaps made to "deflate the opposition".

"Moreover, the news leaves open the question of making barrages between Allahabad and Varanasi," he added.

An equally sceptical environmentalist Debadityo Sinha echoed the concern.

"Nitin Gadkari did not mention anything about the Allahabad-Varanasi stretch, which is a matter of greater concern because it is not in a condition to support navigation of big ships not only because there is huge withdrawal of water upstream leaving less water in Ganga but also due to lack of any substantial tributary to feed the river in this stretch," he said.

Describing the decision as a "political statement", V.N. Mishra of Jharkhand Vigyan Manch warned that the decision could be "reversed" if the Bharatiya Janata Party comes to power in Bihar.

According to him, Gadkari made this announcement to pacify green activists in Bihar ahead of the state assembly elections later this year.

"We are not against navigation but government should plan practical solutions to improve the river conditions to support navigation 'naturally' without construction of barrages or any hydro-engineering structures," Sinha said.

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First Published: Mon, March 30 2015. 20:42 IST