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NGT order changes everything about cleaning river Ganga
In a significant order seeking a fundamental change in strategy in cleaning the river Ganga, the National Green Tribunal on Thursday directed that 100 meters from the edge of Ganga between Haridwar in Uttarakhand and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh should be treated as "no construction or no development zones." The NGT observed that all the government schemes in the past that have spent hundreds of crores in Ganga cleanup have not only failed but led to an increase in pollution levels, which is why Ganga now needed a change in strategy.
It also directed that an environmental compensation of Rs 50,000 be imposed on anybody who is found dumping any kind of waste in the river.
In a judgement on advocate MC Mehta's petition against pollution in river Ganga that ran into 543 pages, NGT directed that there will be no dumping or landfill sites of any kind within 500 meters from the edge of the river or any of its tributaries. Its judgement was pertaining to Haridwar to Unnao stretch. There will be complete prohibition on disposing of municipal solid waste, electronic-waste or bio-medical waste on the floodplains or into Ganga or its tributaries falling in the same stretch.
It needs a plan that is "technically feasible, economically viable, and practically executable with tested modern technology, appropriate technical inputs from the stakeholders, expert institutions as to performance and planning, free from fundamental errors," while pointing that Rs 2961 crores had already been spent under National Mission for Clean Ganga since 2011. "It remains undisputed before the Tribunal that no part of river Ganga and its tributaries is free of pollution as of today. This by itself is a sufficient indicator that the stakeholders must adopt an innovative approach quite different to the orthodoxical and uncertain approach," adding that NGT in its judgment is therefore adopting a "hotspot and river basin approach" with focus on "end of pipeline treatment."
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson, Justice Swatanter Kumar also directed that while diverting water from Haridwar to the Ganga canal or even otherwise, the minimum flow in the main river should not fall below 20% of the average monthly lean season flow. It also directed UP government to ensure that 86 drains specified in the judgement as well as other major drains and sewerage lines connecting to Ganga will be dredged, cleaned of sludge and waste removed within a period of six weeks from Thursday.
Explaining how past schemes have failed, the judgement said "For instance, the discharge flow of river Ganga from sewage was 2683.6 million liters per day (MLD) and from the industrial effluent it is 285.9 MLD in 2009. While as per CPCB in 2012 it was reported to be 6966.3 MLD from sewage and 501 MLD from industrial effluent,"
The bench also observed that "violators must realize their consistent defaults,"..."The historical background of this case demonstrably exhibit fundamental errors in planning, adoption of technology and implementation of the projects. Deficiencies in the regulatory and supervisory regimes are writ large from the record of the case." The Tribunal said its directions are based on the principles of "sustainable development" and the "precautionary principle." It added that the right to decent and clean environment is an integral part of Article 21 and by law, the industry is mandated to adhere to the prescribed standards for discharge of trade effluents.
Among other important directions, NGT directed the creation of a special monitoring cell in the Uttarakhand and UP Pollution Control Boards for keeping track of water quality, it also directed creation of supervisory and implementation committees with both senior central and state government officials as members. It ordered that extraction of groundwater by any industry will be only after seeking permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). The bench also allowed state governments to raise money from people if need be to fund Ganga clean up. "We also grant liberty and in fact, it shall be desirable for every local authority to recover environmental conservation charges from the public at large or in any case a class of persons responsible for generating higher sewage," and directed state governments to identify and demarcate the floodplains in the stretch based on 25 year flood line.
"Ganga is considered sacred by people for providing life-giving and life-sustaining succour for the environment and ecology. Ganga is not an ordinary river. It is a life-line, a symbol of purity and of virtue, for countless people of India," the judgement said stressing on why Ganga deserved immediate attention.