Recently, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) approved a number of projects worth nearly Rs 4,000 crore, for various cities and towns of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. NMCG is the central decision-making body that is responsible for the implementation of the government’s Ganga rejuvenation, anti-pollution, and conservation programme.

Among the projects are two for Kanpur, which is the origin of the most polluted stretch of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh due to the discharge of polluted water from hundreds of tanneries that dot the nearby basins. Together, these two are worth nearly Rs 1,600 crore.

These projects are in addition to the total 187 Namami Gange projects, out of which 47 smaller ones have been completed. The projects cover treatment of municipal sewage, treatment of industrial effluent, cleaning, rural sanitation, afforestation, biodiversity, and awareness generation. Currently, sewage-treatment plants are being set up in all the 10 main cities responsible for the lion’s share of the river’s pollution. Villages along the Ganga now have 100 per cent toilet coverage, although whether they are being used is a separate matter. The timeline for completing this ambitious programme is 2020.

Interestingly, Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport, shipping and water resources, has stated that the government will require at least Rs 10 lakh crore to clean all the major rivers in the country – this is 50 times the Namami Gange programme’s budget outlay at Rs 20,000 crore. He also asserted the need for states, corporates, local bodies and citizens to pitch in, including CSR from companies who are in a position to help in this mission.

However, at least till last year, corporate India seems to have had little appetite for wading into these holy waters (metaphorically speaking). Till early 2017, more than 80 per cent of donations to the Clean Ganga Fund came from public sector companies and about 10 per cent (around Rs 14 crore) from private companies, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch alone accounting for a third of this amount.

In an attempt to woo corporates, in October of last year the government launched an interactive web page on the NMCG website to encourage private companies to take up projects under Namami Gange. It carries all details of projects and activities that can be taken up by companies as part of their CSR work. As of now, there’s no indication that the biggest companies in the country are taking the bait. However, companies would do well to take note of this potential area of intervention, if only to buttress their claims of being CSR and sustainability champions.