Observing that river Ganga is not just sacred but also the lifeline of a large number of cities, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday issued a slew of directions to tackle pollution in the river, including a ban on the use of plastic material in cities and towns along the Ganga — from Gaumukh to Haridwar — from February 1.
Coming down heavily on the The Ministry of Environment & Forests and the Uttarakhand government for the delay in the preparation of a flood plain map of the area along the river, the NGT directed the state government to submit a tourism and flood plain map and complete the process of zoning off the area within three months.
In the interim, the bench directed that all area within 100 metres of the river would be treated as an “eco sensitive and prohibited zone” where no activity — temporary or permanent — would be allowed.
The bench also banned unrestrained camping and rafting between Kaudiyala and Rishikesh, directing the state government to create a management plan/proposal within three weeks to identify specific sites for camping.
Further, the NGT directed that all hotels, dharamshalas, ashrams and households which discharge untreated waste into the river will have to pay environmental compensation charges or sewage charges. Hotels which have failed to install a sewage treatment plant — the order for which was issued in September — would be shut down. Anyone found discharging untreated waste into the river after March 10 would have to pay Rs 5,000 per day as fine.
The four-member bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar also directed immediate closure of all “seriously polluting” industrial units along the river, which had not obtained permission from the Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board (UKPCB).
Directions have also been issued to Central and state governments to install/upgrade sewage treatment plants and common effluent treatment plants.
In a 150-page judgment, the NGT took note of the reduction in the natural flow of the river and directed all concerned ministries and departments to ensure that there is no delay in the implementation of its orders.
“We have given a fixed time schedule… The Union of India and the State of Uttarakhand should ensure there is not even 1 per cent delay,” said the bench.
NGT on Ganga
# Complete ban on use of plastic from Gaumukh to Haridwar. Textile ministry to look into providing jute bags, paper plates, cups, etc.
# Rafting allowed but no camping or construction within 100 metres from river.
# Ban on mechanised river bed mining. Regulated mining only in particular seasons.
# Officials to be held personally responsible for any failure.
The NGT Thursday issued 56 judgments, disposing of 209 pending cases. The bench asked lawyers appearing before it to “stop taking unnecessary adjournments” and said it would “soon be issuing a directive” to “all ministries to ensure that various bodies are represented on the very first day” so that time is not wasted in serving notices. The important judgments issued Thursday include:
# Ban on burning crop residue. State governments in NCR to educate farmers and impose fines.
# Ban on illegal sand mining across Madhya Pradesh from Dec 31.
# MoEF to conduct study on HCFC and HFC gas impact on environment.
# ACC Cement plant in Bilaspur to pay 50 lakh as “compensation” to persons affected by respiratory problems.
# Delhi forest department to consider enhancing personnel strength, get better equipment to check illegal cutting of trees.