National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018

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Context

  • The Bill calls for a National Ganga Council and a National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority to enforce the law and protect the river which flows over 2500 km.
  • The draft Bill prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation. The draft Bills defines Ganga as ‘India’s national river’.

Highlights of Bill

  • An armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river; treating a slew of actions — from obstructing the flow to commercial fishing — as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

  • Ganga Protection Corps: The draft Bill envisages the Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force “constituted and maintained” by the Central government. “If any member of GPC has reason to believe that any person has committed an offence punishable under this Act, he may take such person in custody to the nearest police station.” GPC will follow Code of Criminal Procedure.

  • Aquaculture: The draft Bill says that commercial fishing or aquaculture activities in the Ganga and any of its tributaries shall be punishable with imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2 lakh or both.

  • Construction: the proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorised” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Ganga, due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water, could be liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto Rs. 50 crore, or both.

  • Obstruction: No person or municipal authority will establish or take any steps to set up any industrial or residential or commercial premises or structure which may result in discharge of any sewage or trade effluent into the Ganga, otherwise he may face a five-year prison term or a fine of Rs 50,000 per day or both.

  • The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the “uninterrupted, ecological flow” of the river.

Background

  • In July 2016, a committee was constituted under retired judge of the Allahabad High Court Justice Girdhar Malviya who had submitted a draft Bill last year named The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017. Subsequently, a four-member committee was set up by the Ministry to examine that and the Ministry has circulated a Cabinet note which includes a revised version of that draft Bill.

Source:TH