Around Rs 684 crore allocated for four financial years under the Centre’s Namami Gange programme was not utilised by the Bihar State Ganga River Conservation and Programme Management Society, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General, reported PTI.

The audit report, which was tabled in the Bihar Assembly on March 30, mentioned that Rs 5,487.76 crore was sanctioned for improving the sewage infrastructure, but that only Rs 1,349.04 crore was utilised till December 31, 2020, leaving the majority of the funds unused.

In 2014, soon after the BJP came to power at the Centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the Rs 20,000-crore Namami Gange project to revive the Ganga river by controlling pollution.

According to a study in July 2021, co-ordinated by professor Punyasloke Bhadury at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, and Chakresh Kumar, a researcher from Bihar, most sites in the river have “poor” to “very poor” water quality, which did not change across the seasons.

The team noted that timely intervention by policymakers was needed to restore the health of the river.

In its recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor General said that the project executing agency, Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, had failed to adhere to the deadline of completely using the funds.

It also observed that only 16% to 50% funds were being utilised annually during the financial years 2016-’17 to 2019-’20, PTI reported.

“The National Mission for Clean Ganga without ensuring the utilisation of previous instalments released funds for next instalments and as a result a huge fund of Rs 683.10 crore remained parked in the savings bank account of BGCMS,” the report said, reported PTI.

The audit also stated that the drainage system of Patna was in bad shape, adding that the water quality in the overall sewerage system in Bihar was deteriorating.

“Due to lack of sewerage infrastructure in Bihar [including Patna], the maximum Total Coliform (TC) and Faecal Coliform (FC) which was measured up to the level of 9,000 mpn/100 ml and 3,100 mpn/100 ml in 2016-17 respectively has increased up to 160,000 MPN/100 ML [for both TC and FC] in 2019-20,” the report noted.

Shambhunath Pandey, the South Bihar convenor of Ganga Samagra organisation, said that the matter should be taken up on priority, PTI reported.

“The river along with her many tributaries has been the source of physical and spiritual sustenance of Indian civilisation,” Pandey was quoted as saying in the news agency. “Her well-being is of prime national concern.”

Meanwhile, Dharmendra Singh, the managing director of the Namami Gange project executing agency, told PTI that he had not received the CAG report. “But we will soon complete the construction and strengthening work,” he said.

Bishweswar Tudu, the minister of Odisha for water resources, said on Monday in the Rajya Sabha, that a total of 53 new sewerage treatment plants were completed in the last three years under the Namami Gange project, All India Radio reported.