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The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday directed the tannery clusters located at Banther and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh on the banks of Ganga to install chromium recovery plants within four weeks so that they do not discharge any effluent in the drains pouring into the river. Chromium recovery plant helps in removing trivalent chromium from tannery waste water which is produced during the processing of animal hides. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the leather units which have not set up these anti-pollution devices to do so within the stipulated time and warned that failure to do so would result in their closure.
The green panel said it would pronounce its judgement on the second phase of the Ganga cleaning project between Haridwar to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday. The Centre had earlier said that out of the 456 tanneries identified to be polluting the Ganga when it flows through UP, only 14 have been dismantled. Among the 442 functional tanneries, 437 units are divided in three clusters — Kanpur (400), Banther (23) and Unnao (14) — which are connected to Common Effluent Treatment Plants that are non-compliant of Central Pollution Control Board norms, the Centre had said.
In April, the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government had favoured the shifting of British-era tanneries releasing toxic wastes into the river Ganga at Kanpur. The UP government had told the NGT that the hunt for a new site for these leather units, which are the “major source of pollution” in Ganga, was under consideration and would be identified soon.
Last year, the then Akhilesh Yadav government had opposed the idea of shifting of over 400 tanneries giving employment to over two million people, saying moving the tannery hubs to some other place was almost “next to impossible” due to paucity of land.
The green panel, however, said the decision to shift tannery cluster rested entirely with the state government. However, the existing industrial clusters at Jajmau and Unnao required establishment of an entirely new Common Effluent Treatment Plant with a separate chromium recovery plant and separate pipelines.
In a detailed report covering various aspects of contamination in the river, CPCB had informed the NGT that the Ganga, spanning a distance of 543 km between Haridwar and Kanpur, was affected by 1,072 seriously polluting industries which were releasing heavy metals and pesticides. Currently, 823.1 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated sewage and 212.42 MLD of industrial effluent flows into the river, while three of the four monitored Sewage Treatment Plants were non-compliant with the set standards, it said.