January 29, 2021 9:39:20 pm
The National Green Tribunal has disbanded a committee that was formed on its directions almost two years ago for monitoring the pollution in Sutlej and Beas rivers. The tribunal has now asked Punjab government to monitor the pollution in the two rivers and said that the state may take the services of this committee if it wants.
The NGT had formed the committee — first of statutory regulators (like Central Pollution Control Board, and Punjab Pollution Control Board) and later with a former high court judge, a former chief secretary, and a former member secretary of the PPCB led by Justice (retd) Jasbir Singh — to monitor the pollution in the two main rivers of Punjab and to look after some other activities related to pollution. The tribunal had ordered the formation of the panel after tonnes of molasses was released in the Beas by a Gurdaspur based sugar mill, leading to death of a large number of fishes and adversely affected the river’s flora. Several drains to dump their load into these rivers.
While appreciating the “contribution of the committee in monitoring the control of pollution of rivers Sutlej and Beas and setting a direction by its recommendations”, the NGT, in an order, said “with the taking over of further monitoring by the Chief Secretary, Punjab, the proceedings of the committee will stand concluded subject to further monitoring being continued by the state authorities”.
The order states that “monitoring by the Tribunal or the Tribunal appointed committee cannot be a regular feature” and is “only a last resort for some period”. “It is finally for the state to take ownership and take stern measures and evolve effective monitoring mechanisms to remedy the situation to give effect to its Constitutional obligation to provide a clean environment to the citizens and protect natural and scarce environmental resources like water, air and soil for current and future generations. Violators of environmental norms need to be sternly dealt with in the same manner as other criminals threatening the safety of the citizens,” the order read.
The NGT said that the “ownership of the issue may now be taken over by the Chief Secretary, Punjab who may…personally monitor progress of compliance at least once in a month and also evolve an appropriate administrative mechanism to handle the grim situation”.
The tribunal also requested the monitoring committee to render such further assistance as may be considered necessary by the chief secretary in the transitional period. “The committee may continue to monitor other important issues, as requested by the Tribunal, for some more time and give its reports. The committee may, in particular monitor review/updation/finalisation of District Environmental Plans covering seven areas including Waste Management Water Quality Management, Ambient Air Quality ,. Domestic Sewage, Industrial Waste Water, Mining Activity and Noise Pollution,” the order adds.
The green tribunal in 2018 had slapped a fine of Rs 50 crore on the Punjab government over pollution caused to river Beas and Satluj.
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