The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Save-river cruise voyages from Varanasi

His day begins with a holy dip in the Ganges at Varanasi’s Tulsi Ghat. And his undivided focus is the Swatcha Ganga Abhiyaan or the grassroots campaign for a clean Ganges.

For Veer Bhadra Mishra, the mahant (high priest) of Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi, cleansing the Ganges is a crusade, and the purgation train is now chugging towards town.

Mishra’s Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), formed in 1982 when the professor banded together with a group of like-minded citizens, will celebrate Clean Ganga Day in Calcutta on March 28 to raise awareness. Jointly organised by SMF and the United States-Asia Environmental Partnership (US-AEP), the initiative also involves local NGOs Intach and Public, while Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is a supporting partner.

“This civil society partnership programme will be the first full-blown campaign in eastern India by the SMF, which had earlier held workshops in the Varanasi-Allahabad-Kanpur belt, and we are glad to support the project,” says US-AEP regional director Arup Kumar Mitra. Proceedings on Clean Ganga Day will kick off with a symposium at Rotary Sadan and end with an open-air cultural evening at Millennium Park, comprising fusion and folk music and a film show on the Ganges.

Besides Mishra, the other speakers at the seminar will be Rakesh Vats from CMDA, Rakesh Jaiswal, executive secretary of Ecolinks, a Kanpur NGO, Manash Mukhopadhyay, a professor at IIT, Kharagpur, and Mohit Roy from a city-based environment NGO. Paul Narain, deputy director, American Center, will also address the assembly. Justice Bhagawati Prasad Banerjee, retired justice of Calcutta High Court’s Green Bench, is likely to speak on the occasion as well.

Mishra, a professor of hydraulic engineering at Benares Hindu University (BHU), has been working to create awareness on the need to clean the river, and has taken his campaign to various cities. “A technical debate like this is very relevant in the current context and could go a long way in sensitising the people of the city on the issue,” observes Mitra.

US-AEP’s goal is to promote an Asian “clean revolution” — the continuing development and adoption of less-polluting and more resource-efficient products, processes and services in the Asian region.

The agency’s India Program is focussed on environmental sectors with priority to policy support, bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, safe drinking water and energy.

Last week, US-AEP and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted two experts from the Institute for Public-Private Partnership (IP3) for a workshop, which discussed the Baranagar-Kamarhati water supply plant. Kathleen Slattery, director, water, sanitation and urban services practice of IP3 and Daniel Nelson, global training coordinator, Asia dwelt on various partnership models.

After a training session by IP3 on various aspects of public-private projects, a joint presentation was done by IP3 and USAID on the proposed model for privatisation of the water-supply system of the Calcutta Metropolitan Area.

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