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Monday, September 27, 2021

Discharge of untreated effluent into Sabarmati: HC says ‘catch hold of everyone responsible for this by their ears’

The bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and VD Nanavati had taken suo motu cognisance of untreated wastewater being discharged in Sabarmati river based on media reports earlier this month and had appointed advocate Hemang Shah as an amicus curiae.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
September 1, 2021 2:19:16 am
covid genesDuring the hearing of the case, Shah submitted before the court that he had walked along the river embankment on the periphery of Pirana area in Ahmedabad at 5 am.

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday rebuked the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) for not ensuring a stop to pollution in Sabarmati river and warned erring authorities and industries that the court will “catch hold of everyone responsible for this by their ears”.

The bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and VD Nanavati had taken suo motu cognisance of untreated wastewater being discharged in Sabarmati river based on media reports earlier this month and had appointed advocate Hemang Shah as an amicus curiae.

During the hearing of the case, Shah submitted before the court that he had walked along the river embankment on the periphery of Pirana area in Ahmedabad at 5 am.

“According to Mr Shah he was barely able to walk in the particular area because of extremely foul stink coming out of the water. According to Mr Shah the reason for the stink is the discharge of the sewage into the river. According to him, the sewage is not being treated in a proper manner at the sewage treatment plant. He further pointed out that there are many illegal industrial connections of trade effluent which is adding to the present problem,” the court recorded in its order adding that Shah is of the view that immediate appropriate steps are required to be taken by the GPCB to take care of this problem.

It was the case of senior advocate Mihir Joshi representing Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation that the sewage treatment plant set-up was commissioned in 2009 by AMC to take care of domestic sewage only over a network laid down across catchment area majorly spread out in the eastern side of the city, with a 16-kilometre pipeline running through this catchment area. According to Joshi, tenders are floated every three or five years for running the STP, which is currently being operated by one DNP Infrastructure. However, Joshi admitted that the company’s performance has not been satisfactory for which liquidated damages have also been recovered.

“There are five or six broad catchment areas — Narol, Odhav, Vinzol etc — from where domestic effluent from residences are carried to the STP. The treated sewage is discharged into the river…What has happened is, Narol, Odhav, Vinzol etc are industrial clusters. They (Industries and industrial estates) are illegally connecting industrial effluent discharge pipelines into the trunk line of sewage…effluent is also dumped by tankers into the pumping station pipelines,” submitted Joshi.

The court in its order recorded AMC’s submissions, noting that the civic body submits that “the current sewage treatment plant needs upgradation at the earliest” and that it is “not operating to its best or to its potential”.

“According to Mr Joshi, the menace or the nuisance of illegal trade effluent being discharged into the sewage drainage system needs to be looked into and attended to by the GPCB at the earliest. It is only the GPCB who can take appropriate action and during inspection it is found that anyone of the industries is indulging in such activity then immediately the industry can be stopped or the connection may be disconnected,” the court recorded during its oral dictation of the order.

The court directed additional solicitor general Devang Vyas, representing the GPCB to file an appropriate reply in relation to the public interest litigation even as Vyas submitted that he shall convene a meeting at the earliest with the officials of the GPCB to discuss this problem and assured that all necessary steps shall be taken at the earliest to ensure two things — one, the identification of illegal trade effluent connections at the earliest and second, that the sewage is treated in accordance with the parameters set by the GPCB in accordance with the rules and regulations.

The bench observed, “The first thing we need to do is take appropriate measures to ensure that all the illegal trade effluent pipelines are detected and necessary action is taken against all such erring industries. Secondly some steps need to be taken at the earliest to upgrade the capacity of the sewage treatment plant to treat the sewage in a proper manner.”

Amicus curiae Shah meanwhile has been granted 15 days’ time during which he is expected to visit the STP to undertake necessary inspection so as to assist the court.

During the course of the hearing, the bench also remarked that while the bench will issue appropriate directions as may be necessary, the real challenge begins thereafter which involves monitoring that such violations are not repeated.

Justice Pardiwala remarked, “GPCB should rise up to its expectations… But unfortunately we don’t have a very good experience with the GPCB…There are people at the top who protect these industries also… These problems will not be solved by merely quoting observations of the SC, the problem will only be solved only by catching hold of everyone by their ears. This is exactly what we are going to do now from today onwards. We will catch hold of everyone responsible for this by their ears..”

The matter has now been kept for further hearing on September 14.

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