Excessive extraction of water between Haridwar and Unnao in Ganga floodplains is a serious issue and should be immediately stopped, the National Green Tribunal said on Thursday. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said the water which is being diverted into the various canals should be regulated so as to help maintain a minimum flow of the river.
“Extraction of groundwater directly affects the flow of the river. The problem with Ganga is two-folds, as a huge quantity of water is extracted and additionally, effluents are discharged into the river. Excessive extraction of water is a serious problem,” the bench, which also included Justice R S Rathore, said.
The tribunal was informed by the Ministry of Water and Resources that minimum environmental flow in Ganga should be 20 per cent in the lean season from November to March, 25 per cent during October and April and 30 per cent from May to September.
When the bench asked the Ministry about a possible solution to the issue of water withdrawal, the counsel said the official concerned was not present. The NGT took exception to this and directed the counsel to call him and appear before it within 15 minutes. “Answer our query or face the consequence. We don’t want any study or report. We want clear cut solution and answer,” the bench said while adjourning the matter for hearing on Friday.
The tribunal had earlier asked the Centre to clarify what should be the minimum environmental flow (E-flow) in the Ganga, in a bid to ensure uninterrupted water supply in the river. E-flow defines the quantity, timing and quality of water flow required to sustain freshwater and the estuarine ecosystems, besides human livelihood.
Earlier, the new Uttar Pradesh government had favoured the shifting of British-era tanneries releasing toxic wastes into the river Ganga at Kanpur. It had told the NGT that the hunt for a new site for setting up of these leather units, which are a “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.
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. At present, 823.1 million litres per day of untreated sewage and 212.42 MLD of industrial effluents flow into the river, while three of the four monitored Sewage Treatment Plants were non-compliant with the set standards, it said.
The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river in different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar (Phase-I), Haridwar to Unnao (termed as segment B of Phase-I), Unnao to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.