The state government is likely to order internal investigation into the decision taken by officials during Congress-NCP government to enforce River Regulatory Zone Act in 2009, that thwarted the development and expansion of industries and satellite towns across Maharashtra. According to estimate project worth Rs 20,000 crore across Vidarbha, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Marathwada and Western Maharashtra were stalled because of the RRZ act. The act which was made for river cleaning was extended to even non-pollution industries along the river banks even beyond 100 metres.
A senior secretary in the Maharashtra government revealed to Indian Express, “The state government incurred several thousand crore losses following RRZ act which extended to non-polluting industries. The non-affluent projects which were stopped because of RRZ are estimated to have affected the projects worth Rs 7,000 crore. Almost 20 projects across river banks which were sanctioned but could not be proceeded since 2009, when the act was enforced has adversely hit the development in state.”
At its internal meeting, it was brought to the notice that the primary purpose of the RRZ was taken as part of the project to get rid of high level pollution in rivers across Maharashtra. Almost 20 major rivers across state were covered under the campaign to clean river. Insiders in the government told Indian Express,. “ While taking the decision it was felt that primary reason for river pollution was through industrial discharge. The untreated water and chemicals from the industries was polluting the river waters.” However, blanket ban was applied to all category industries which has affected the township development and even non-pollution industries along the river banks.
Sources in the Ministry of Envrionment said, ” Unfortunately, the RRZ has not helped in cleaning of rivers. It shows the act was mindlessly slapped and concrete measures required for non-pollution of rivers were not effectively implemented.”
The scrapping of RRZ last month was taken by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis after thorough deliberations with the Union Minister of Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar and legal experts in Ministry of Law and Judiciary.
On Saturday, commenting on the government’s decision to scarp RRZ, Fadnavis said, “ The state is strictly adhering to the policies drawn by Centre on river pollution and protecting environment. The government is not giving blanket permission to any and every industries along the vicinity of river banks. The laws laid down by centre have to be adhered before getting the permission. Even the state laws related to industrial pollution are being mandated before giving permission for any industrial activities.” However, he said, “The RRZ was ultra vires and state was not the competent authority. It was in violation with the Constitution.” But added, “State government along with centre is absolutely committed to make the rivers pollution free and protect the river bodies which are extremely significant in retaining the environmental balance.”
Fadnavis said, “ My government is committed to clean river and healthy environment.”