Updated: February 23, 2017 4:15:23 am
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set a deadline of three months for industrial units across the country to set up functional primary effluent treatment plants (PETPs), failing which they will not be allowed to operate. Ordering a nationwide crackdown on water pollution by factories and industrial units which release untreated waste into rivers and other water bodies, the bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar directed state pollution control boards to issue common notices to all industrial units, asking them to ensure the treatment plants are in working condition.
After three months, the court said, the boards shall carry out physical inspection of the units and order immediate closure of defaulting units. The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay K Kaul, said electricity supply to defaulting units should be disconnected. Stating that only those units which comply with the regulations on environmental laws should be allowed to continue, the bench said: “It is an important issue. If the country does not act now, it can never be retrieved.”
The bench also pulled up the state governments and their municipal authorities for not putting in place Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP). “States don’t worry about human lives. You (governments) can see everything else but not how people are suffering,” it said. Directing the municipal bodies to set up common effluent plants in industrial areas within three years, the court said they could ask the factories to foot the bill in case of shortage of funds. It asked the states to submit reports, with regard to setting up CETPs, to the concerned bench of the National Green Tribunal.
The court further held that environment secretaries and state pollution boards must ensure implementation of its directives. They must also upload the data about the quality of treated pollutants discharged into the river on their respective websites to make monitoring easier.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, which sought a slew of directions for checking pollution in water bodies, including ground water. The plea was initially restricted to Gujarat, but the court later widened its scope and sought explanations from all the state governments.
A 2015 study commissioned by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on pollution levels of 275 rivers found there were at least 302 polluted river stretches based on Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution.
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