The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the state government to meet the authorities concerned and prepare a plan of action for revival of Mithi, Ulhas and Waduli Patalganga rivers and submit the plan to the tribunal by February 12.
NGT also directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to deposit money with IIT Bombay to survey the Ulhas river to check pollution levels and its causes, assess the units that had been polluting the river and decide the action required to be taken against defaulters.
The NGT was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Vanashakti, seeking directions to the MPCB to close down all the industries that discharge untreated effluents into the Ulhas river, and to restore the ecology of the river.
The Ulhas river, which flows from Karjat to Thane creek, is one of the most `critically polluted’ industrial clusters in the country. There are around 800 industries along the river.
The MPCB informed the tribunal on Wednesday that they had shut down eight out of 250 units in Dombivili that discharged effluents beyond the permissible limit.
The tribunal slammed the MPCB for failing to take effective steps to keep rivers pollution-free.
The court also asked the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board about the state of the Waduli river, for which MPCB said there was no river by that name, but just a nullah. Judges lamented the fact that rivers were being assigned the status of nullahs.
The tribunal also said if it found that any industry was a threat to the river, it would order relocation.
“Today’s judgment is a welcome move. The directions of the tribunal went beyond penalising agencies and spoke of revival plans for rivers. Water bodies that are our greatest resources are somehow ignored by agencies in the course of ‘development’,” said D Stalin, project director of NGO Vanashakti.
Bailable warrants for Rs 20,000 were issued against the commissioner of the Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation and the president of the Ambarnath Municipal Corporation for not appearing in the Ulhas river pollution case.
For the Mithi river, the MMRDA informed the tribunal that, after its initial refusal, National Environmental Engineering
Research Institute (NEERI) had accepted the offer to conduct the environment impact assessment to study whether blasting on the river bed could be a viable
option for the river widening project.
The MMRDA added that the NEERI report would be presented before the court by the first week of March.