September 24, 2021 2:49:20 am
Permission granted by authorities in the past to industrial units to pump treated effluents into rivers must be cancelled, the Gujarat High Court remarked Thursday as it heard a PIL against the discharge of wastewater into the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad.
The court also warned that those threatening or obstructing Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) officials from performing their duties must be detained under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act.
A division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and VD Nanavati said the court had taken suo motu cognisance of the issue based on media reports in August. The court had then instituted a joint task force to look into the issue and suggested appropriate recommendations to remedy the situation.
The court’s remarks Thursday came after it was highlighted by one of the task force members–Rohit Prajapati of Vadodara-based NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti–that industrial units are dumping their wastewater in the river legally as well as illegally.
When asked what legal dumping was defined as, the court was apprised that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) had granted permits to several industries over the years, allowing them to discharge “treated effluents” into the river.
Meanwhile, Devang Vyas, appearing for GPCB, said the board was only concerned about maintaining prescribed norms and pollution standards, while the grant of permits falls within the exclusive domain of AMC that they have granted “left, right and centre”.
Vyas also submitted before the court that GPCB remained understaffed. Often, the officials attempting to curb polluting activities were at the receiving end of threats and were obstructed from taking action against the industrial units, he added.
“Such persons (who obstruct GPCB from carrying out statutory functions) will be immediately detained under PASA … we will not tolerate such high-handedness,” Justice Pardiwala said in response to Vyas.
Prajapati, who was present in the courtroom, also informed the court that following a meeting of the task force, the whole committee had almost unanimously come to the conclusion that “the river is critically damaged and an almost irreversible damage has been done” with a nearly 120-km stretch of the river practically dead.
Meanwhile, both Vyas and Prajapati suggested that a data collection drive, including mapping legal and illegal connections, as well as, identifying faulty Common Effluent Treatment Plants, was necessary before taking any action.
The court noted that it shall pass an appropriate order soon once it receives the task force’s observations and recommendations in writing.
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