The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday slapped a Rs 50,000 fine on a scientist from the Environment Ministry but withdrew it later, warning officials against passing the buck on matters relating to the cleaning of Ganga.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said in future any such act will follow a penalty of Rs 50,000, adding it felt “very sad” on the way this important issue was being treated by the bureaucrats.
The bench’s reaction came after a scientist appearing for the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) failed to answer its query on what would be the minimum flow required for the river.
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“He refuses to answer the same which we find totally undesirable. A scientist working with MoEF is expected to know basics of environment… Why did you come here if you know nothing? Don’t waste the time of five judges,” the bench said.
The bench imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the official but later withdrew its oral order, saying “we are leaving you.”
When the same question regarding the minimum flow of the river was posed to the counsel appearing for the Ministry of Water and Resources, he also failed to answer.
The tribunal asked how was the ministry planning to control pollution in Ganga if it did not know the basics. “The tribunal is feeling very sad that you all (officials) are treating it in such manner,” the bench said.
It said that “everyone comes here from every department and says that he knows nothing. If any officer says in this court that he is not supposed to know and it is someone else’s responsibility, this will be the order (Rs 50,000 penalty).”
The green court also cancelled a bailable warrant issued against Kanpur municipal commissioner after his deputy appeared before the court.
The bench, however, directed the official to make sure that counsel and concerned official remained present before it during the hearing of the matter.
The bench, which is hearing the Ganga cleaning case on a day-to-day basis for expeditious disposal, had on Tuesday issued bailable warrant against Kanpur municipal commissioner for non-appearance on the matter regarding the cleaning of the river, noting that despite directions he had not appeared.
It had also warned that if the departments which are collectively responsible for cleaning of the river do not stop giving illusionary answers, it may pass some strict order.
It had earlier slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 each on officers of the Ministry of Water Resources and UP Jal Nigam for filing incorrect information on 30 drains joining the river Ganga in Garhmukteshwar area of Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier, the tribunal was told by an experts’ panel that the functional sewage treatment plants in the Garhmukteshwar area of Uttar Pradesh do not operate as the domestic sewage network is not connected to the main sewerage system.
A three-member committee set up by the NGT had said that the Garhmukteshwar stretch of the Ganga should receive special attention as it was the habitat of the critically-endangered Gangetic Dolphin, an indicator species for the river’s ecosystem.
In February, the bench had ordered a CBI probe into the execution of the Ganga cleaning project after it noted that Rs 31.82 crore was spent on two sewage treatment plants (STPs) and a 58-km long sewerage line project without due analysis and verification of the actual pollution load in the Garh drain and Brijghat drain.
NGT had slammed the state’s Jal Nigam for building the STPs on the drains joining Ganga without any survey and said it had wasted Rs 1500 crore since 1987 and still not cleaned “even a single drop” of the river.