The United Nations (UN) has recognised the Namami Gange initiative to rejuvenate river Ganga as one of the top 10 World Restoration Flagships aimed at reviving the natural world and awarded the project's Director General, G. Asok Kumar.
G. Asok Kumar was awarded for the Namami Gange initiative during a function at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada on World Restoration Day on Wednesday.
"The recognition of Namami Gange as one of the top-10 ecosystem restoration initiatives in the world bears testimony to the concerted efforts being made by the National Mission for Clean Ganga, Government of India for the restoration of the riverine ecosystem. I hope that our endeavours provide a roadmap for other similar interventions across the globe," G. Asok Kumar said after receiving the award for initiative Namami Gange, which was selected from over 150 such initiatives from 70 countries across the globe.
According to an official release, all these initiatives were selected under the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet. It said that the recognized initiatives, including Namami Gange, will now be eligible to receive UN support, funding or technical expertise.
Asok Kumar had also participated in a session in Montreal, Canada, organised by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration Youth Task Force during the occasion.
"This has come at a very opportune moment for us as India has taken over the Presidency of the G20 group of nations. While taking over the Presidency, our Prime Minister reinforced his commitment for the protection of environment 'One Earth One Family One Future' in the true spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam," Asok Kumar said while expressing his gratitude to the World Restoration Forum, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organization for giving the honour to India by selecting Namami Gange in the top 10 restoration programmes.
He informed that Namami Gange Programme was started in 2014 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister after recognizing the need to rejuvenate River Ganga and committed over 5 billion dollars to ensure that the river gets clean.
"Ganga is important for India as it is home to 40 per cent of India's population, 2500 species of flora and fauna and 8.61 billion sq. km. basin, which is home to over 520 million people. Ganga is also very important from spiritual point of view," he said, adding that the river is closely associated with India's tradition and civilization and symbolized the faith, sentiments and collective consciousness of the people here.
He further said that the NMCG adopted a holistic and multi-sectoral approach, which introduced innovative models for the comprehensive conservation of the riverine ecology and its health.
"Our projects are designed to ensure that no untreated water- sewage or industrial effluent flows to the Ganga river. 176 STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants) with the capacity to treat over 5000 Million Litres per Day are being constructed. The concerted efforts of the Mission have resulted in significantly enhanced capacity for treatment of sewage and industrial effluents in the Ganga basin; improvement in river water quality and biodiversity, manifested as an increased population of Dolphins and their juveniles, Turtles, Otters, Gharials and fishes like Hilsa; and over 30000 hectares afforested among others," he added.
Kumar also said that an integral component of Namami Gange is Arth Ganga for strengthening the socio-economical- river people connect. This has transformed the Mission into a Jan- Andolan or people's movement. With many innovative project management practices like HAM and One City One Operator successfully evolving, NMCG is preparing the road map for cleaning other rivers in the country and the world.
He added that the Namami Gange programme is driven by full commitment from the top political executives. The unwavering commitment to the Namami Gange program is such that it is closely monitored by the National Ganga Council chaired by PM Modi and is regularly reviewed by Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
"The gifts received by Hon'ble PM is annually put to public auction, all proceeds of which is given to the Clean Ganga Fund specially set up to encourage public contribution in Government's endeavour to clean river Ganga," Kumar said.
Further speaking about the importance of connecting with youth for the programme, he said: "India is the youngest country with the largest young population and we have to connect with the youth and women to ensure that the problem of bad water management is addressed."
He said that the youth and women here are aware of the water security issues and are being taught to respect the water. "If we can get the youth to respect water, it will automatically stop misuse and mismanagement of our water resources," he said mentioning that the recycling of water is being pushed very hard as part of the circular economy and steps are being taken conserve biodiversity and protect spring sheds etc.
"The youth are engaged in diverse activities through trained volunteer cadres like Ganga Praharis, Ganga Doots, Ganga Quest etc. who through their sheer passion have joined us in protecting the biodiversity of River Ganga. The rescue of Dolphins by these volunteers in the Ganga Basin is a case in point which has resulted in the increased sighting of the aquatic species in the river," he said.
Kumar added that various activities like rafting expeditions, cyclathons, hackathons, webinars on 'Igniting Young Minds: Rejuvenating Rivers' are also taken up to rope in the younger generation and said, "under Namami Gange we are aware of the necessities to involve people, particularly youth, in the process."
He said that Namami Gange is not just an inspiration for us but also a humble offering to Mother Ganga for environment protection and restoration in our endeavour to leave behind a better world for the youth of today and the next generation.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Inger Andersen said: "The Namami Gange is an ambitious effort to rejuvenate the Ganga, a lifeline for millions of people in India. At a time when it is critical that we transform our exploitative relationship with nature, the positive impacts of this restoration cannot be underestimated."
Qu Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, said: "FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind."
The announcement was made as leaders from across the globe gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference, where governments agreed to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has previously won the "Public Water Agency of the Year" in the Global Water Awards, 2019 by Global Water Intelligence 3.
The documentary 'Ganga: River from the Skies' co-produced with National Geographic India, has also received awards under three categories- Best Documentary, Best Current Affairs and Best Natural History or Wildlife Programme- in the Asian Academy Creative Awards, 2022.
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