Project Management Institute

Slow Flowing

The Ganges River Cleanup Continues


Ganges River in Kolkata, India


Just two months after his 2014 election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a project to clean up the badly polluted Ganges River.

“Ma Ganga has called me,” he said in one speech, using the Hindi term for the sacred river. “Ma Ganga is screaming for help; she is saying I hope one of my sons gets me out of this filth.”

But the US$3 billion project is at risk of not meeting its 2019 deadline. In fact, parts of the river are getting more polluted, India's Central Pollution Control Board found. More than 823 million liters (217 million gallons) of untreated sewage is dumped into the river per day between the cities of Haridwar and Kanpur, the board said.

“Ma Ganga is screaming for help; she is saying I hope one of my sons gets me out of this filth.”

—Narendra Modi, prime minister of India

Other challenges for the project team include industries that release toxic waste into the river and the diversion of enormous amounts of water from it. The number of stakeholders is another issue—450 million people live in the Ganges’ drainage area.

“Never in the past has a government initiated a project of this magnitude,” Shashi Shekhar, an official from India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, told The New Yorker.

Some aspects of the effort seem easy enough, such as the construction of sewage treatment plants. Despite previous failed cleanup projects, the team is confident.

“We have learned lessons from their mistakes,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told the BBC. —Jessica Boden

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