Polluting or “obstructing the flow” of Ganga may attract a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine as high as Rs 50 crore under the proposed “The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2019”, which the government plans to introduce and pass during the Winter Session of Parliament beginning Monday.
“Offences under this Act to be cognizable and non-bailable for causing pollution in river Ganga,” states the draft Bill circulated by the Ministry of Jal Shakti for Cabinet approval.
According to sources, the draft Bill, which comprises 13 chapters and three schedules, lists graded penalties, depending on the severity of the offence, under a dozen sections. These include activities like illegal construction of ports or jetties; storage or diversion of water by any means causing obstruction to the flow of water; mining, stone quarrying or extracting ground water; and spoiling or defacing the ghats of the Ganga and its tributaries.
A maximum fine of Rs 50 crore has been proposed for causing obstruction to the flow of the Ganga without prior permission, said sources.
Similarly, the maximum imprisonment of up to five years has been proposed for construction of permanent residential or commercial structures in the active floodplains of Ganga and its tributaries, said sources.
According to sources, a provision has been made for regulating activities like mining, stone quarrying or extracting ground water, which may attract imprisonment of up to two years and/ or fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
Spoiling or defacing the ghats of the Ganga or its tributaries will be punished with imprisonment of up to one year and/ or fine up to Rs 10,000 or cost incurred for restoration (whichever is higher).
According to sources, the proposed Act also has a provision for setting up a Ganga Protection Corps, which will have the power to arrest any person found violating the provisions of the Act and produce the person before the local police station.
“The central government will constitute an armed force called the Ganga Protection Corps. The Ganga Protection Corps is to be provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs,” said sources.
The aim of the Bill is to prevent and control pollution of the Ganga and ensure continuous flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river to its natural and pristine condition.
The proposed Bill also provides for constitution of a National Ganga Council, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, which will include the chief ministers of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal along with central ministers.