The National Green Tribunal on Thursday clamped a blanket ban on the use of plastic from Gomukh to Haridwar along the Ganga in Uttarakhand and also slapped a stiff fine on the hospitality sector accused of spewing waste into the river.
The ban will come into force from February 1.
Pushing hard to end pollution of the river – in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clean Ganga project – the NGT also banned camping activity in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh on the banks of river Ganga in the state till a regulatory regime comes into force. It, however, permitted the adventure sport rafting with immediate effect.
Besides, the tribunal ordered that mining on the river bed shall be carried on in a highly regulated manner and under strict supervision.
Passing a slew of directions to keep the river pollution free, an NGT bench headed by chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar said that if any hotel, dharamshala or ashram releases their domestic waste and sewage into Ganga or its tributaries then “it shall be liable to pay environmental compensation for causing pollution of the river at the rate of Rs 5,000 per day”.
Besides the plastic ban, the tribunal also prohibited throwing of any municipal waste, construction and demolition wastes into Ganga and its tributaries while announcing that violators will have to pay an environmental compensation at the rate of Rs 5,000 per incident.
“Under no circumstances, plastic carry bags of any thickness whatsoever would be permitted. The procurement, storing and sale of such plastic bags, plates, glasses, spoons etc are hereby prohibited, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The tribunal, which did not pass any order with regard to nine hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, said that all the projects would build their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) and make them operational within three months.
“No mechanised river bed mining would be permitted. No JCBs (mechanical excavator) would be permitted to operate on the river bed,” it said.
The bench directed the state government to prepare an action plan to provide bio-toilets for pilgrims in Uttarakhand during the festive seasons.
The Tribunal, in its 150-page judgement, also directed that at least 100 meters from middle of the river Ganga would be treated and dealt with as “eco-sensitive and prohibited Zone”.
The green bench also held that there would be no throwing of any medical or bio-medical waste into the river on the river banks.
“If any hospital is found throwing such waste anywhere on land, water bodies or other places, state pollution control board and municipal authorities would recover Rs 20,000 per violation,” it said.
With regard to Rs 258 crore which was provided for Ganga cleaning project, the green panel noted that Rs 78 crore has been spent and directed Uttarakhand government and its various departments to divert remaining Rs 180 crore for carrying out its directions inluding setting up of STPs.
The bench’s order came on a plea of an NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) against the “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh and other areas on the banks of river Ganga.