For the second time in five months, the Supreme Court has pulled up the NDA government for the delay in cleaning up of the Ganga, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Centre has now told the court it will finish the mega project to clean up the 2,525km-long river by 2018.
Bringing up the slow progress on the three-decade-old Ganga Action Plan, the SC Wednesday wondered if the NDA government would be able to clean up the river before its term ends. “Do you want to complete it this term or the next term?... (Are you) keeping the issue alive?” a three-judge bench headed by Justice TS Thakur asked the Modi government.
“We propose to conclude it by 2018,” solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told the bench. The court has been hearing the case since 1985.
Noting little work on the ground despite spending Rs 2,000 crore on the plan, the bench sought fresh response from the Centre in six weeks on steps taken for stage-wise implementation of projects to clean up the river in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
“After seeing your (government’s) action plan, it seems Ganga will not be cleaned up even after 200 years,” the SC had said on September 3 last year.
The Centre has given the court a blueprint of short, medium and long term measures, involving thousands of crore of investment, to restore the river.
The Centre has also identified 118 towns on the banks of the river as the first targets for providing total sanitation. “Things have started moving. They (municipalities, concerned authorities) have been told to wake up,” Kumar told the bench.
The bench sought additional response on 70 sewage treatment plants (STPs), which are at various stages, likely to come up in the five Ganga basin states.
"If you have financial problem, we cannot solve. All that is required is that you go ahead with the projects and if there is any bottleneck, you can come before us. Don't take it (PIL) as an adversarial litigation,” it said.
The court also asked for the status of 15 proposed STPs. The bench added that if there’s any delay in the bidding process, the reasons should be indicated.
The government, meanwhile, told the SC that “seven river front locations have been identified by the water ministry for development of ghats at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi.
The SC had transferred industrial pollution-related matters to the National Green Tribunal, which in November last ordered immediate halt of further business activity in the industrial units of tannery, paper and pulp, sugar, sugar-cum-distillery, dyeing, printing and slaughter houses that were discharging their untreated effluents in the Ganga or any of its tributaries.