Updated: August 19, 2021 4:40:05 am
The Allahabad High Court has said that the future of India to a “large extent” will depend on the well-being of the river Ganga, and that it is “imperative that every effort should be made to revive the river and make it pollution-free”.
In a judgement on Tuesday, Justices Ritu Raj Awasthi and Dinesh Kumar Singh of the court’s Lucknow Bench pointed out that after being elected prime minister in May 2014 Narendra Modi said that it was his “destiny to serve Maa Ganga”.
The court, which passed the order in a petition filed by M/S Geo Miller & Co. Pvt. Ltd., said that despite being the “lifeline of the nation, having been worshipped, providing sustenance to a large population, over the time the river has become highly polluted”. The petitioner had moved court after its bid for a project under the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in Uttar Pradesh was turned down for not having met the technical qualification criteria.
“According to the studies, it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Pollution of River Ganga is caused by both human and industrial waste due to rapid industrialization as well as religious events. Waste and raw sewage of population living in the river Ganga basin (400 Million) is dumped into the river. Many people bathe and use the river to clean their laundry. Studies have described bacteria level near Varanasi at least 3,000 times higher than what has been prescribed as safe by the World Health Organization,” the court said in its order.
The order mentioned that in the late 1980s, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi “began the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) to clean up the river Ganga”. It added, “…Many of the polluting industrial plants are also continuing to dump their hazardous waste into the river.” The judges took note of the current government’s flagship “Namami Gange” programme that was started in 2014 “to accomplish twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River ‘Ganga’”.
The two-judge Bench added, “It is being operated under the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti. The programme is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e. State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).”
The court said the Namami Gange Programme “has revitalized India’s efforts in rejuvenating river Ganga”. It added that building critical sewage infrastructure in 20 pollution hotspots along the river, and the cleaning of its tributaries were underway.
The court observed that the Gomti river, a tributary of the Ganga, “is highly polluted in Lucknow city and it smells and looks like a big sewer drainage in City Lucknow”.
The NMCG sanctioned a tender in favour of the UP State Ganga Conservation Programme Management Society for the construction of a network of sewage treatment plants. The project’s aim was to clean up the Gomti so that it flows into the Ganga free of pollution. The petitioner, M/S Geo Miller & Co. Pvt. Ltd., challenged the decision to award the tender to a company called RK Engineers Sales Limited.
Advocate General Raghvendra Singh, who represented the state government and the UP Jal Nigam at the proceedings, submitted in court that “looking at the large public and national interest involved and the fact that the delay would adversely affect the ambitious mission of clean Ganga and prevention of abatement of pollution in river Gomti, this Court may not interfere with the decision of the competent authority to award the contract in favour of the technically qualified bidder, which is just, fair and reasonable”.
The court said that “the course of action adopted by the NMCG is well within its power and does not call for any interference by this Court”. The petition was “not maintainable”, it added.
The Bench said it did not find any “arbitrariness or favoritism in awarding the contract in favour of respondent No 4 (RK Engineers Sales Limited)”.
Dismissing the petition, the court directed the respondents to proceed with the execution of the project in “all earnestness and promptness” to control and abate the pollution in the Gomti. That would cause the Ganga’s pollution levels to go down, which is the main objective of the “Namami Gange Mission”, the judges added.
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