The National Green Tribunal has directed the Uttarakhand and the UP pollution control boards to publicise the water quality of the Ganga river at all strategic locations on a monthly basis and indicate if it is fit for bathing and drinking. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel warned that the failure to do so may result in coercive action against the pollution control board of both states.
The tribunal also rapped the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) over its affidavit which alleged that Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have not provided relevant information for the stretch from Kanpur to Buxar (Phase-II) and Buxar to Ganga Sagar (Phase-III). It said that the affidavit filed by the NMCG presents a dismal picture.
“It has indicated that the states have not provided the information and, therefore, action plans could not be formulated within the stipulated time frame. The lackadaisical approach of the NMCG can hardly be appreciated as it has been set up by the government with the sole object for rejuvenation of Ganga and its functioning and coordination with the states has been specified in The River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016,” it said. The tribunal said there is no justification for the delay in filing the action plan by the NMCG and the state governments as the Ganga has been declared a “national river”.
“We may have to take coercive action, including environment compensation being required to be paid by the NMCG and the states of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal for not responding and failing to formulate the action plans for Phase II and III,” the tribunal said. “We give final opportunity to the NMCG and the concerned state governments of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to take further steps forthwith, latest within seven days and file the action plans before April 30, particularly indicating interception and diversion of each drain to the existing or proposed sewage treatment plant, utilisation plan for treated sewage and demarcating of the flood plain zone, preventing encroachments, etc,” the tribunal said.
“The NMCG may also, in consultation with the states, specify the issues relating to the maintenance of e-flow as applicable for the states of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal,” it added. The green panel also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that the committee headed by Justice Arun Tandon is consulted with regards to post-Kumbh Mela management of waste in Allahabad. The matter is fixed for next hearing on May 2.
The panel also noted that its directions relating to the interception of drains, construction of sewage treatment plants, setting up of common effluent treatment plants at Jajmau, Unnao and Banthar have not been complied with till date and the common effluent treatment plants are not meeting the stipulated standards. “Since NMCG and UP state have failed to ensure setting up of CETP at Jajmau and upgradation at Unnao and Banthar, we direct NMCG, CPCB and UPPCB to examine whether tanneries who are members of such CETP are to be closed till compliant CETPs are set up. The directions of this tribunal are clear,” it said.
The tribunal had earlier said that the water of the Ganga, between Haridwar and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, was unfit for drinking and bathing, and expressed anguish over the situation. The green panel had said that innocent people drank and bathed in the river with reverence, without knowing that it may adversely affect their health.
It had directed the NMCG to install display boards at gaps of 100 kilometres, indicating whether the water was fit for bathing or drinking. Voicing dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Uttarakhand government to clean the Ganga, the NGT had said the situation was extraordinarily bad and hardly anything effective has been done to clean the river. The green panel, in a detailed judgment, had passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate the Ganga and declare as ‘No Development Zone’ an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao.