No money from the 'Clean Ganga Fund', however, has been spent on sewage treatment plants (STPs), a reply to a query under Right to Information (RTI) from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has said.
Of the Rs 10,942.02 funds released to the NMCG, it has expended Rs 10,649.40, the reply said.
Of this, the Clean Ganga Fund amount expended in situ bio-remediation (treatment of drainage) is Rs 161,91,909; Rs 731.31 crore has been spent by NMCG on ghat construction and maintenance and Rs 107.59 crore has been spent on media and public outreach since 2014 till September 2021.
Environment conservationist and founder member, Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE), Vikrant Tongad, who had filed the query under RTI, said: "Clean Ganga Fund' should be spent on actual cleaning of the river and not on peripheral activities. Ghats are important in view of the spiritual connection for the people and better riverfront management. However, those can be funded from other sources."
The activist also pointed to the fact that more ghats will encourage more people reaching the river fronts and warned that ghat maintenance is important, in view of solid waste management, "but more than that is the necessity to discourage people from using soaps and detergents when they go for bathing."
The RTI reply said, "No fund was released from the 'Clean Ganga Fund' on STP constructions and maintenance since 2014 till date."
However, a senior official from the Ministry said, "All the infrastructure development, especially big ticket spends such as STPs are being carried out under the Externally Aided Projects (EAP) head. The Clean Ganga Fund is being used for other purposes."
According to statistics from the Ministry, as on October 31, it has spent Rs 9,172.57 crore as against the sanctioned Rs 24,249.48 crore for 'Sewarage Infrastructure'. There are 157 projects outlined, of which 70 are completed, the government data showed.