In a first, the Union government has mandated the minimum quantity of water — or ecological flow as it’s called in scientific circles — that various stretches of the Ganga must necessarily have all through the year. The new norms would require hydropower projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance.
In a gazette notification made public, the National Mission for Clean Ganga has laid down the flow specifications. The upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
The new norms would require hydropower projects located along the river to modify their operations so as to ensure they are in compliance. Power projects that don’t meet these norms as yet would be given three years to comply and “mini and micro-projects” would be exempt from these requirements.
For the main stem of the Ganga — from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao, Uttar Pradesh — the notification specifies minimum flow at various barrages: Bhimgoda (Haridwar) must ensure a minimum of 36 cubic meters per second (cumecs) between October-May, and 57 cumecs in the monsoon; and the barrages at Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur must maintain a minimum of 24 cumecs in the non-monsoon months of October-May, and 48 cumecs during the monsoon months of June-September.
The Central Water Commission would be the designated authority to collect relevant data and submit flow monitoring-cum-compliance reports on a quarterly basis to the NMCG, according to the notification.
The notification is issued in the backdrop of ongoing ‘fast unto death’ by environmentalist and former IIT Kanpur faculty member GD Agarwal at Haridwar on the issue of Ganga conservation. The 87-year-old Agrawal has been observing hunger strike since June 22 for pollution free and uninterrupted flow in the Ganga.