Mother Ganga, Father Rhinehttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-germany-clean-ganga-project-river-ganga-rhine-5469704/

Mother Ganga, Father Rhine

Indo-German development cooperation has deepened over six decades.

india germany, clean ganga project, namami gange, river ganga, narendra modi, angela merkel, rhine, india germany relations
Despite facing different kinds of political and economic challenges during this period, India and Germany shared a common destiny as young democracies. (Reuters/File)

India and Germany look back on decades of successful bilateral relations. Having come into existence as the states we know them today at a similar time — India in 1947 Germany in 1949 after the devastation of World War II — the two countries entered into diplomatic relations almost immediately. In fact, India was one of the first nations to recognise the young Federal Republic of Germany in 1951.

Despite facing different kinds of political and economic challenges during this period, India and Germany shared a common destiny as young democracies. As a consequence, both countries soon started concrete economic development cooperation, which continues till today. This year, we proudly celebrate the 60th anniversary of this fruitful aspect of our strategic relationship.

In the early years and in line with the government policy of that time, our joint projects targeted industrial growth, poverty reduction and rural development. To mention one example, in the 1960s German development cooperation supported the agricultural revolution in the Nilgiris by helping small farmers in over 16,000 holdings to get loans and determine favourable cultivation practices for potatoes.

Time has certainly changed the focus of our development cooperation as circumstances changed. We still share common values and constitutional principles, and our relationship has always been based on great mutual respect and understanding. Today, India is one of the biggest and fastest-growing economies, and Germany is the biggest economy in Europe. We are natural partners making a joint effort for prosperity, while ensuring that we safeguard the environment.

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Today, India and Germany are in a balanced partnership. Our bilateral relations contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to end poverty and create a more inclusive and equitable world. With increasing environmental degradation, heavy thunderstorms, severe floods and droughts leading to famines across the globe, we see the adverse effects of global warming and accept the responsibility to actively protect our habitat and cooperate closely on this matter internationally.

India is Germany’s biggest development partner with a proven track record of success. Now, the areas of focus are renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable urban development, environment protection and resource management. This is complemented by supporting sustainable economic development, including vocational education and training (VET). The know-how and expertise that Germany shares with India is the main value-add of this cooperation, guided by India’s reform programmes and priorities.

Three crucial projects help to illustrate the gist of our cooperation today. First, the Clean Ganga initiative. The Ganga region is home to more than 600 million people — half of India’s population. The Ganga, just as Germany’s largest river, the Rhine, had faced abuse for decades, with untreated industrial and domestic waste flowing into them, causing major pollution and the extinction of marine life. Both rivers have been an inspiration for songs, legends, literature and art. Mythology and sentiment is attached to them. Germany is honoured to share its experience with India to bring back “Mother Ganga” to acceptable standards, as it has successfully done for “Father Rhine”. For instance, Germany pledges a loan of Rs 970 crore to strengthen sewage water treatment infrastructure in Uttarakhand.

Second, India and Germany cooperate closely on energy matters. The Indian government goes to considerable lengths to provide every household with electricity. Adding more renewable energy sources to the country’s energy mix also remains a priority; the ambitious renewable energy target of installing 175 gigawatt by 2022 has been set, of which 100 Gigawatt should be solar energy. In 2006, the Indo-German Energy Forum was set up to promote cooperation in this field. We have already achieved a great deal jointly: In 2013, the Maharashtra Power Generation Cooperation Limited, supported by German funds, set up a 125 Megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Sakri. It supplies 2,20,000 households with solar energy, resulting in the reduction of CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road. Further, our strategic Green Energy Corridors project will build transmission lines transferring clean energy to different parts of the country. German development cooperation has given loans worth Rs 9,300 crore for this project, ensuring the supply of clean electricity to millions of Indians while reducing network losses and improving the carbon footprint.

Third, green mobility is one of the key issues for the future of our countries. Germany pledged up to Rs 8,900 crore over five years to improve solid and liquid waste management and provide climate-friendly urban transport like the Metro in Nagpur, which is the single biggest project of German financial cooperation in India. Moreover, Germany has partnered with three smart cities — Bhubaneswar, Kochi and Coimbatore — to provide sustainable urban public transport. In Kochi, Rs 690 crore have been committed to finance an integrated, cleaner and more efficient water transport system, including 76 new ferries with hybrid engines, which are expected to save 1,58,000 tons of CO2 while carrying over 1,00,000 passengers daily.

These projects stand for around 190 already successful or promising cooperation projects of India and Germany today. We are proud to work as equal partners to tackle global development challenges. We are aware that whatever we do on this earth has a global environmental impact. Germany is keen to continue to create innovative solutions with India for the future, for the benefit of both of our societies and the world at large.