January 29, 2021 12:03:19 am
Proceedings of the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) concluded on Wednesday, close to two-and-a-half years after it was set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The principal bench of the NGT, headed by chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, said the committee has presented a clear roadmap for preventing pollution of the river and rejuvenating it, but action by authorities continues to remain inadequate.
“All the issues have been duly identified and categorical directions issued… The Tribunal or Tribunal appointed Committee cannot be expected as substitute for governance and can at best set directions,” the bench said.
The two-member YMC, comprising former Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra and former expert member of the Tribunal BS Sajwan, was set up by the NGT in July 2018.
The committee has since submitted a number of reports containing details about the progress, or lack of it, on compliance with the directions of the Tribunal and also made recommendations for rejuvenating the river.
One of the most crucial steps taken by the YMC in 2018 was to suggest that the Central Water Ministry get a study done to assess the environmental flow (e-flow) required in the river between Haryana’s Hathnikund and Delhi’s Okhla.
The study done by the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) has recommended releasing more water into the river from Hathnikund to help its revival. However, the Haryana government has disagreed with the study.
On January 19, the Supreme Court also asked for a report from the YMC as it impleaded the committee in a suo-motu case pertaining to remediation of polluted rivers.
A member of the committee told The Indian Express that the steps required for revival of the Yamuna include addressing the question of e-flow, protecting the floodplains of the river and preventing flow of untreated effluents in it.
“Unless the flow of freshwater in the river is not up to the required amount, there is no chance of revival… In (Covid-19) lockdown, the water in the river had become perfectly clean, because more freshwater was released into it and industries were either shut down or had minimum functioning,” the member said.
In its order on Wednesday, the NGT has asked chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to personally monitor compliance with the directions for river rejuvenation, “by evolving effective administrative mechanism to handle grim situation caused by years of neglect.”
It has also asked River Rejuvenation Committees (RRCs) of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh — headed by their Environment Secretaries — to monitor execution of action plans that are already in place for restoration of the Yamuna.
Chief Secretaries of the three states will have oversight over the RRCs and will also give quarterly reports to a Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) set up by the NGT for polluted river stretches, headed by the Secretary of the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS).
“We place on record our appreciation for the contribution of YMC in the last more than two years… Wherever the YMC has suggested filing of periodical reports with this Tribunal, such reports be filed with the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti,” the order said.
The MoJS Secretary also heads a Principal Committee formed for monitoring the Yamuna in January 2015, when the NGT delivered landmark judgment containing a revitalisation plan for the river, on a petition filed by former Indian Forest Service officer Manoj Misra.
In its order on Wednesday, the Tribunal also disposed of the application filed by Misra.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Misra said, “Government officials have hundreds of other roles and in such a situation, monitoring of the river also becomes one of the tasks… We feel that discontinuing the YMC is a retrograde step and is not going to be helpful at all… They were doing good work of full time monitoring of the river and the progress achieved in reviving it.”
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