The Allahabad High Court has directed the District Magistrate and the top officials of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) in Ghaziabad to remain personally present before it to explain as to how industrial effluent can be allowed to contaminate groundwater and why no criminal and departmental proceedings be initiated against those responsible for the condition.
It has fixed August 12 as the next date of hearing in the matter.
A division bench of Justices Arun Tandon and Ashwani Kumar Mishra passed the order on July 17, while hearing a PIL filed by Society for Voice of Human Rights and Justice, through its president Raj Kumar Kaushik. The petitioner has been arguing his case in person.
The PIL, which was filed in 2010, had alleged that polluting industrial units, factories using chemicals and brick kilns were destroying the ground water quality in Loni, Pilkhuwa and Moradnagar blocks of Ghaziabad. Earlier, the district and state authorities had told the court that more than 200 such units in Loni area had been closed down, as they were discharging untreated effluent into the water system.
However, the petitioner had further submitted that 178 units involved in dying of clothes (some of whom use colour for giving grey hue to clothes) were still functioning in the three blocks. It was further alleged that the groundwater in the area had turned red due to these untreated effluents. The same was also entering the food chain, as water was being drawn for drinking from such sources in these areas, the PIL alleged.
In April, the court had directed the DM (Ghaziabad) to constitute a committee and submit a report in the matter.
It was in the light of the report submitted by the DM that the court passed the order, after noting that the reply was unsatisfactory. It said: “In respect of nearly 178 units engaged in manufacture of grey clothes, it is submitted that the installation of Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) is not required and where the process of colouring is also being undertaken, ETPs have not been installed.”
The court further said: “Standing Counsel has not been able to explain to the Court as to what the words ‘laagu nahi’ in the report, mean. Does it mean that the industry, which are manufacturer of grey clothes, are free to discharge effluent water without any treatment or such industries are under legal obligation to ensure that trade effluent is not discharged in open drains/ underground water without treatment?”
Expressing concern over the attitude of authorities towards the issues involved, the court said: “In our opinion, the district authorities and the authorities responsible for controlling the water pollution both on the surface as well as underground water have become too insensitive to the situation and are practically playing with the health of common Indian residing in the area.”
Holding that the situation needed to be improved with utmost urgency, the court also said: “The authorities must act instead of merely submitting report.”
The court also directed Ghaziabad Senior Superintendent of Police to ensure that no harm was done to the petitioners. It added that if any further complaint was received from him in this regard, the matter would be dealt with in all seriousness. The petitioner had earlier requested for security in the wake of threats from some of the respondents. He had been provided security. However, the petitioner submitted that he was still receiving threats and was under pressure to withdraw the PIL.