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Union Jal Shakti Minister Delivers Address at ‘Panel Discussion on Namami Gange’ at UN Water Conference

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister for Jal Shakti, delivered the keynote address at a panel discussion on 'Namami Gange - an integrated and holistic approach towards conservation and rejuvenation of River Ganga and its ecosystem' organized by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) during the UN Water Conference 2023 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on March 23, 2023.

Shivam Dwivedi
Namami Gange Mission was created with the goal of restoring Nirmalta & Aviralta of River Ganga
Namami Gange Mission was created with the goal of restoring Nirmalta & Aviralta of River Ganga

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who delivered the keynote lecture, stated, "NMCG has successfully developed a robust sewerage treatment infrastructure spanning cities and towns along the Ganges, resulting in increased water quality and biodiversity. The number of sightings of Gangetic Dolphins, Turtles, and Hilsa fish has increased, indicating better health."

He went on to say that the Namami Gange Mission was named one of the top ten ecosystem restoration flagships in the world during a function during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada on December 14, 2022, World Restoration Day.

According to Shekhawat, Ganga has a special place in Indian context because it is a holy and pristine river that serves 43% of the population and covers approximately 23% of the geographical area. The Namami Gange Mission was launched in 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in response to the deteriorating health of River Ganga and its ecosystem due to urbanisation on its banks. "Namami Gange Mission was created with the mandate and goal of restoring Nirmalta and Aviralta of River Ganga," he said. Additionally, the goal is to enable the local populace connect with Ganga's traditional wisdom as well as restore Ganga to its pure grandeur."

Shekhawat stated that India has committed more than 240 billion dollars to the water sector and is also executing the world's largest dam restoration plan, as well as attempts to improve the country's groundwater situation. Shekhawat underlined the importance of public engagement in ensuring the success of Namami Gange and recognised the commitment of local residents living along the river's banks who worked together to make the Namami Gange Program a success. "There has been a significant spike in knowledge on river related concerns with millions of people connecting and participating with the riverine ecology," he said.

In compared to comparable river restoration programmes across the world, such as the Danube and Thames, Shekhawat stated that the NMCG was able to achieve positive results in the Clean Ganga Mission in just 6-7 years. He acknowledged India's role in international cooperation and partnerships, and stated that the NMCG's work is no longer limited to river restoration, but also to economically connect individuals to the river system in order to transform Namami Gange into a sustainable model through robust people-river connections for future generations.

"The concept of Arth Ganga was propagated under the supervision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give a new dimension towards connecting local populations to Ganga and her tributaries through activities that can sustain them economically," he added.

H.E. Magnus Heunicke, Denmark's Minister for Environment, stated that water is critical for millions of people's health, economy, ecosystem, biodiversity, culture, history, and religion. He discussed India and Denmark's collaboration on sustainable and reliable water and the green agenda. "Water is not only a source of life; it is also crucial to one's quality of existence. Collaboration with India is about more than simply technology; it is about cities, people, access to clean water, and creating a better, more sustainable world," he said.

During the session, a book titled "Ripples: India's Sustainable Water Management Story" was also released, which covers the Indian government's ongoing efforts to manage water in sustainable and equitable ways, and provides a snapshot of major policies, schemes, and missions that India has adopted over the last two decades.

Other key panellists were Minister for Environment, Denmark, Magnus Heunicke, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, G. Asok Kumar, Special Water Envoy, Netherland, Henk Ovink, Global Director, Global Water Practice, World Bank, Saroj Jha, Deputy Director, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Dr. Tania Vorwerk and Executive Secretary, ICPDR, Birgit Vogel. D.P. Mathuria, Executive Director (Technical), NMCG moderated the event.

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