Ganga will be totally cleaned by 2018, the Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court, which had sought to know whether the government was serious about completing the clean-up exercise during its current tenure or wanted to keep it alive as a poll issue for the next general elections.
“Absolutely not. We don’t want to keep it alive. We want to do it by 2018,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before a bench led by Justice T S Thakur, which was hearing a PIL pending since 1985.
The PIL, filed by activist M C Mehta around three decades ago, was being heard by the apex court regularly but it picked up pace recently when the Justice Thakur-led bench began hearing it. Incidentally, the government led by Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre around the same time when this bench started hearing the petition.
On Wednesday, the court said the government should be “more worried” about the pollution in the river since this government had pledged its commitment to the issue. “The net effect as on today is that Rs 2,000 crore has already been spent and the river is still polluted. Fortunately money is not a problem with the government but we want to see the results on ground. Show us the output that can be objectively verified,” the bench told the Solicitor General.
Kumar drew the court’s attention to the government’s last affidavit wherein it had highlighted creation of a new ministry — the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation — and submitted that cleaning the river remained a top priority. He also read out the progress made in the relevant projects.
The court, however, said: “These are all bureaucratic jargon. We don’t want to be dragged into this jumble. You may call it Ganga mission or rejuvenation or conservation or whatever you may like but we would only want to understand it in terms of verifiable projects. You tell us in simple terms what are you going to do. Tell us what do we get when we lift a sample of water from the river.”
It said the court would be satisfied even if the government comes up with a categorical answer that a particular stretch will be totally cleaned in one year and likewise but there had to be verifiable plans.
“Don’t treat this as adversarial. Treat it as something that would benefit you and your plans. Fortunately, there is no shortage of funds for this project so you should go ahead and execute it in a time-bound manner. If there is a problem, come to us and we will help you in removing such bottlenecks,” the bench told Kumar.
At this, Kumar said the river will be cleaned by 2018 and that the government will not make Ganga a poll issue when it goes for the general elections in 2019. He also informed the bench about the status of 70 sewage treatment plants and said the government would file a detailed affidavit to demonstrate the progress. The court asked him to also place on record the final report by the IIT consortium, which has been asked to formulate the Ganga basin management plan. It will hear the case next after six weeks.