NGT to impose Rs50,000 fine for dumping waste in Ganga river
New Delhi: In a landmark order aimed at cleaning up and rejuvenating the Ganga, considered a holy river by millions of Indians, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday banned all construction within 100 metres of the river’s edge from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
This ban will remain in place until authorities complete the demarcation of the Ganga’s floodplains and identify all permissible and non-permissible activities, the court ruled.
This was among a range of measures that a six-member NGT bench headed by its chairperson, justice Swatanter Kumar, listed out in a huge 543-page judgment on petition by environmentalist M.C. Mehta.
In a scathing indictment of the way government money is being spent, the bench noted that “even after spending Rs7,304.64 crore up to March 2017 by the central government, state government and local authorities of the state of UP” the status of the Ganga has “not improved in terms of quality or otherwise and it continues to be a serious environmental issue”.
The bench ordered the concerned authorities to start constructing all sewage treatment plants or installation of any other anti-pollution devices within four months and complete the work “positively” within two years.
The tribunal said any individual, company or government body found to be dumping waste into the river could be fined Rs50,000.
“Any government agency, public authority, industry or person who violates any of the directions contained in this judgment and more particularly in relation to storage, transportation of spent chrome liquor, dumping of any kind of waste in river Ganga and its tributaries or on the banks of the same shall be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rs50,000 for each breach or default,” the bench noted in its judgement.
The tribunal also ordered a “complete prohibition” on disposing of municipal solid waste, electronic-waste or bio-medical waste on the floodplain or into the Ganga or its tributaries.
“There shall be no dumping or landfill sites for any kind of waste irrespective of any technology for waste processing, within 500 metres from the edge of the river Ganga and/or its tributaries,” the NGT order further said.
NGT also directed the authorities to ensure that, “there are no encroachments, unauthorized illegal constructions on the banks/flood plain of the major drains, river Ganga and its tributaries”.
“Preferably, these areas should be utilized for creation of a green belt and biodiversity park, etc. (natural fringes of effluent and sewage),” said the bench while specifying that the green belt should be developed by plantation of endemic species.
The green tribunal noted that they found it essential “to avoid the conventional approach” adopted by stakeholders so far “for a variety of reasons” as the results of the projects undertaken in different schemes had failed to provide results.
“On the contrary, there has been tremendous increase in the pollution levels adversely effecting the water quality of the river Ganga and its tributaries. It remains undisputed before the Tribunal that no part of river Ganga and its tributaries is free of pollution as of today,” the NGT bench noted.
To ensure that Ganga gets cleaned, the NGT passed precise directions for addressing all the causes of its pollution.
The tribunal held that no industrial unit falling in the catchment area of Ganga and its tributaries should be permitted to indiscriminately extract ground water and asked the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) to carry out a study and notify areas falling between Haridwar and Unnao as over-exploited, critical, semi-critical and safe zones.
The bench formed a committee headed by the secretary of the union water resources ministry to oversee the implementation of the judgement. It would also comprise IIT professors and officials from the Uttar Pradesh government and would submit its progress report every three months.
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