Suman K: The river Ganga is sacred to India and holds immense spiritual, social, cultural, recreational, and economic value to Indians. It originates in the Himalayas and traverses through a stretch of 2500 km across the north and eastern plains of India serving as a life force for close to 40% of India’s population.
Population growth, rapid industrialization and urbanization, abstraction of ground water for irrigation purposes, tourist inflows have meant unmindful pollution and extraordinary water quality and quantity deterioration of the river despite repeated attempts at clean up in the form of Ganga Action Plan and the Yamuna Action Plan. With the firm intention to arrest this trend and to improve the institutions effectiveness, GOI in 2009, embarked on the creation of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
The mandate for the Authority seems to serve as a planning, financing, coordinating and monitoring body for the centre and states in order to build infrastructure and non infrastructure assets. This is to help pollution abatement and conservation of the river Ganga through a basin management approach.
Its expansive programme implementation framework stretching into 2020 is likely to allocate investments to create an institutional mechanism in the form of ‘Ganga Knowledge Center (GKC)’. Through the center, it is expected that Ganga river basin knowledge assets will be created and lessons from the programme execution captured. While this is a welcome step, we see a strong need to consider evolving pathways within the GKC ambit to
- # Incorporate best practice programmatic approaches in river basin management
- # Elaborate a Ganga Innovation Mechanism to fulfill the GKC mandate
- # Explore means to spawn and replicate appropriate variants of the NGRBA to other important river basins in India to meet the basin management mandate outlined in the National Water Mission of NAPCCC.
A handbook for Integrated Water Resources Management in Basins ; an important publication from the stable of Global Water Partnership and the International Network of Basin Organizations outlines extensive examples of best practice programmatic approaches and draws out critical success factors in effective basin management. Considerations include exemplary political will, high level of commitment, basin management systems, water user dialogues, sustained financing to support water resource stewardship, infrastructure and operations of the basin management organization, appropriate revenue ( taxes, tariffs, transfers) instruments , stakeholder engagement, long term basin strategy, workable basin action plans, basin decision support systems, programme monitoring, communication and outreach. While these may represent a wide set of best practice choices, we believe due care must be exercised to map and apply the right selection of practices.
Ganga Innovation Mechanism:
Worldwide many innovation mechanisms are in vogue. Some of the examples include innovation challenges, idea capture and processing systems, innovation intermediary platforms, learning alliances and multi stakeholder formations. Some of them are meant to capture and contain innovation within the boundaries and some outside of the entities where they are in vogue. In the context of NGRBA, we see that it is imperative to adopt a strategy to capture innovation from within while leaving scope and flexibility to capture it from outside the NGRBA programme implementation framework.
The rationale being, the framework happens to be multi dimensional, sectoral, actor and state orientated and long gestation involved. We see that innovative pilot models are possible across programme execution and its phases, capacity building, communication and outreach, equity, environment, economic dimensions, coordination, basin datasets, technology adoption, enabling environment and stakeholder engagement. And to be able to do this, we suggest that the NGRBA consider creating a ‘Chief Ganga Innovation Officer’ role, choose appropriate innovation mechanism options driven by the programme execution mandate, allocate funds and bring in the right technology platform.
Institutional and programme implementation framework success models, scale, basin type, key basin challenges, financing, stakeholder groups and involvement, available capacity, funding, administrative, political boundaries, decision support requirements, self sustaining potential are some considerations while evolving replication variants and pathways. We suggest that as the programme implementation framework evolves and moves through various operational phases, phase gate reviews could highlight replication opportunities across other regions of the country. Further, if the programme can be linked to the basin interventions envisaged in the National Water Mission, then we see better scope for replicating the innovations generated through the NGRBA programme.
About Author: Suman K A wrote this article for Climate Himalaya’s Youth Leaders Speak Column. An Engineer by training Suman has great interest in climate change and mountain issues. She is the founder of Change Planet Partners foundation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya Initiative’s team.
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