The Indian government says it is confident that it will clean the Ganga river by 2020 and Rs15,000 crore will be spent for this purpose under the river development fund
The Indian government has expressed confidence that by 2020 the polluted Ganga river would be cleaned up. It plans to spend Rs15,000 crore for this purpose, reports PTI.
"The Union government is confident that it will clean the Ganga river by 2020 and Rs 15,000 crore will be spent for this purpose under the river development fund," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in Varanasi.
The government plans to save the river by making it 'nirmal' (clean) and 'aviral' (free-flowing), he told reporters.
"We will not only ensure 'aviral dhara' (continuous flow of the river stream), as being demanded by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but also ensure 'nirmal dhara' (clean and pollution-free flow), the minister said.
Mr Ramesh said that the World Bank has also committed at least $1 billion to India as assistance for cleaning up the heavily polluted Ganga in the first phase.
The clean-up involves building modern sewage treatment, revamping drains and other measures to improve the quality of the river, which has been badly polluted by industrial chemicals, farm pesticides and other sewage.
"This is a project of enormous national importance and I am pleased that the World Bank has come forward to assist us," he said, adding that the initial assistance of $1 billion would be provided over the next four to five years.
In 1985, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had launched a grand Ganga clean-up project—the Ganga Action Plan. But the river remains heavily polluted even after 24 years of the implementation of the project, Mr Ramesh said.
"We have made a fresh proposal to the 13th Finance Commission stating that the costs of operating and maintaining sewage treatment plants (STPs) along the Ganga river be borne by the Union government," he said.
A number of STPs built under the Ganga Action Plan-I and II were not operating to their full capacity due to financial constraints of municipal bodies. The move would give them some breathing space to reform their finances.
Asked about the failure of the Ganga Action Plans, the minister said that GAP-I and GAP-II were initiated to control direct discharge of sewage and industrial effluents into the river from 29 major and 23 small cities as well as 48 towns from Uttarakhand to West Bengal.
He said that about 260 crore litres of untreated sewage and effluents are discharged into the river daily and the NGOs working to save the Ganga and the Centre were concerned over this issue.
During his visit to the Ganga ghats, Mr Ramesh pulled up municipal commissioner Nand Kishore for their poor maintenance.
We are enjoying decades of peace. It is easy to forget that in the same terrain we are standing...
Attributing the decline in tourism to the global financial slowdown, terror threats and swine flu scare, the tourism minister hopes that some of the measures including the visa-on-arrival scheme and the Commonwealth Games would bring good results in 2010
Terror threats, swine flu scare and hike in air fares hit the tourism sector hard in 2009 with the number of foreigners visiting the country dropping by over 6%, but the tourism ministry is now looking forward to the Commonwealth Games (CWG) to reverse the trend, reports PTI.
Foreign tourist arrivals continued to dip despite the ‘Visit India 2009’ scheme launched by the government offering several concessions to woo tourists. While 45.41 lakh foreigners visited the country during January to November, the number was 48.45 lakh in the same period last year.
In the month of November alone, the number of foreign tourists was 5.18 lakh as against 5.32 lakh last year.
Attributing the decline to the global financial slowdown, terror threat and swine flu scare, tourism minister Kumari Selja, who took over from her predecessor Ambika Soni in the middle of the year, hoped that "some of the measures including visa-on-arrival scheme and CWG would bring good results in the coming year".
Though the guidelines are yet to be finalised, the introduction of the visa-on-arrival scheme for five countries—Singapore, New Zealand, Finland, Luxembourg and Japan—on a pilot basis is expected to increase tourist arrivals into the country.
Foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector increased, however, with the country earning Rs5,523 crore last month as compared to Rs4,935 crore in November 2008.
The total forex earning during January–November was Rs47,918 crore compared to Rs45,647 crore in the same period last year as tourism continued to play an important role as a revenue earner for the country, with the US and the UK being the major markets for the industry.
Ahead of the CWG, the tourism ministry has made all-out efforts to cater to the requirement of 30,000 additional hotel rooms and a task force has been set up to monitor the accommodation facilities during the mega-event. It is expected that about one lakh visitors would be visiting during the CWG, scheduled to be held in October.
"We are upgrading 5,500 housing flats of DDA at Vasant Kunj and Jasola besides making the services of 11,000 rooms available from the licensed guest houses and around 3,000 \'bed and breakfast units\' for the Games," said Ms Selja.
The ministry has launched a series of training programmes for volunteers, taxi and auto drivers and guest-house owners in the run-up to the CWG.
Acknowledging the shortage in the hospitality sector, Ms Selja has said that initiatives have been taken to provide the required skilled manpower in the sector. This includes skills training in food production and the food & beverage sector.
The year also saw commercials showcasing the ‘Incredible India’ campaigns bagging prestigious international awards including a Grand Prix in Vienna.
The ‘Atithi Deva Bhavo’ campaign featuring Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan was re-launched this year to sensitise people\'s behaviour towards tourists. Steps were also initiated for focused development of caravan, adventure and heliport tourism.
The ministry has also decided to provide financial assistance up to Rs75 lakh to States and Union Territories for construction of heliports in hilly and remote areas. Central financial assistance is being given to State governments for the development and promotion of adventure and caravan tourism.
Launching an aggressive promotional campaign, the ministry held a series of road shows abroad including countries like Australia, New Zealand and a few nations in western Asia. As part of the celebration of the \'Year of India in Russia\', promotional events featuring Indian culture and cuisine were organised in Moscow and St Petersburg.
\'India Calling\', a major tourism event, was organised in Los Angeles in collaboration with the National Geographic Society to woo US tourists. The tourism ministry has identified 29 mega destinations so far on the basis of footfalls and future potential.
In order to encourage maintenance and upkeep of parks and tourist sites, the ministry has introduced a new category of awards for civic bodies, for best maintained cities or towns.
The ministry has also decided to promote rural tourism through 139 sites across the country. The objective of the rural tourism project is to strengthen village livelihoods through community participation.