India Insight

Give the public a role in Clean Ganga project, says Rajendra Pachauri

India’s holiest river is due for a clean-up, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking personal responsibility for restoring the Ganga and ridding the 2,500 km long river of industrial effluents and untreated sewage.

Uma Bharti, Modi’s minister for water resources and Ganges rejuvenation, has said the river would be clean in three years. Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court asked the government for a roadmap on the project so that the court could monitor it.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke to Reuters on the Ganga project, the need for transparency and how the public could help.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: A lot of government money has been spent since 1986 on cleaning the Ganga and the new government has created a separate ministry for it. Where do you think we have fallen short?
A: Frankly, this is symptomatic of many other programmes where government money has been spent on a large scale, without commensurate results. Government cannot implement this as an activity which is going to be totally under government control. If you look at the sources of pollution, they come from a whole range of activities. Even if you have sewage treatment plants, they are not functioning. Another major problem is the community is not really being involved. I personally think it will work if you make it a movement involving all the stakeholders. Central government can be releasing money, but where is the assurance that the money is utilized properly for the right purposes? What you really need is the mobilization of all the stakeholders … I have talked to her [Bharti] on the subject and I think she realizes fully that this is not something the government alone can do. In the community, you might set up bodies that act as whistle-blowers. If somebody continues the violation, then there has to be some means through which it is reported, and action can be taken.

Q: The project is also largely in the hands of bureaucracy – there is hardly any public involvement.
A: I won’t minimize the role of bureaucracy, but what you would like to see is an enhanced role of the public and other stakeholders, for they have not actually been brought into the efforts to clean the Ganga. They have to feel part of it, they have to feel responsible for achieving results. You can set up citizen bodies in the habitations you have along the river.

from Tales from the Trail:

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

INDIAWhen Barack Obama heads for India next month, he'll be carrying a heavy policy agenda -- questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India's status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

Even as Pachauri and the U.N. panel evolve -- and as Pachauri himself weathers pressure from some quarters to resign -- he urged Obama to work on U.S.-India projects that he said would enhance global energy security.

Given India's red-hot economic growth rate -- 8 or 9 percent a year, Pachauri told reporters during a telephone briefing -- he said it makes sense for the United States to work with India to head off an expected soaring demand for fossil fuels.

Himalayan glacier meltdown: gospel truth?

Kashmiri horsemen walk over a glacier near Sheshnag, 130 km southeast of Srinagar, June 12, 2006. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/FilesTwenty-five years from now, the Himalayan glaciers would have almost disappeared. Almost.

Perhaps that foreboding has been stifled. The U.N. body which issued an alarmist warning that the Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035 due to climate change is re-examining its report.

Some experts say the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led by Rajendra Pachauri based the conclusion on the findings of one report.