The National Green Tribunal pulled up the Uttarakhand government on Thursday over steps taken to clean the Ganga, saying hardly any effective steps were taken on the ground to clean the holy river. Saying that the situation was “extraordinarily bad”, a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel ordered the executive committee, set up by the tribunal, to test water samples from the river every month.
“Hardly anything effective has been done. Have you gone and seen the area? I have gone, and there are constructions. It is a difficult situation, but I cannot accept that anything has been done. I cannot. The situation is extraordinarily bad,” the NGT chairperson said.
The NGT rapped the Trivendra Singh Rawat government on a day Union minister Satyapal Singh told the Lok Sabha that it was not appropriate to say that none of the Ganga projects had seen any progress in the past several decades and listed a slew of initiatives undertaken by the Centre for sewage treatment.
The tribunal noted that nine status reports had been filed before it in the last two years, but the results were hardly visible on the ground. It also directed the Ganga committee in each district, which is headed by the district magistrate, to furnish report to the executive committee, formed by the NGT, about the steps taken regarding implementation of directions once every fortnight.
“It is the most prestigious river in the country, which 100 crore people respect, but we are unable to protect it. Let us try to make the mechanism as strong and effective as possible. We are here for the common man. Go on the roads and see the disappointment that they have with the ground situation,” the bench, also comprising justices Jawad Rahim and R S Rathore, said.
During the hearing, the Uttarakhand government told the NGT that it has issued directions for banning use of plastic, sewage waste disposal, construction of public toilets, demarcation of the floodplains and prohibition on mechanised mining of the river bed. The bench, however, said, “Though the compliance affidavit may claim that all the steps have been taken, the object of the directions in letter and spirit and effect on the ground is not adequate.”
“It is not possible to accept that the Ganges is pollution free,” it said. Advocate MC Mehta, who has filed petition for cleaning of the Ganga, told the bench that the water in the river was unsafe for drinking and there was no hygiene in and around the river. He alleged that there was a lot of water pollution and lot needs to be done for municipal and industrial waste management.
The NGT had earlier rapped the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) for not filing a compliance report on the steps taken by the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to clean the river in the stretch between Gomukh and Unnao.
The green panel, in a detailed judgment, had passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate the Ganga, declaring as ‘No Development Zone’, an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river, between Haridwar and Unnao. It also prohibited dumping of waste within 500 metres of the river.
The tribunal had said the government has spent over Rs 7,000 crore in two years to clean the Ganga, which still remains a “serious environmental issue”.The NGT had also appointed a supervisory committee, headed by the secretary of the Water Resources Ministry and comprising IIT professors and officials from the Uttar Pradesh government to oversee implementation of its directions.
“This committee shall oversee and supervise proper and effective implementation of all the projects under this judgment and will ensure providing of funds expeditiously and finally submit the implementation-cum-progress report to the tribunal every three months,” it had said.
An implementation committee was also set up to provide details of the Ganga cleaning projects and the manner and methodology in which these should be implemented.
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