Five locals from Ichalkaranii have approached the Bombay high court seeking stringent criminal action against the officials and office bearers of Ichalkaranji Municipal Council (IMC) and the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) for discharging untreated sewage into Panchganga river, which purportedly resulted in massive jaundice outbreak in May in Ichalkaranji and surrounding towns, infecting 5,354 persons with the Hepatitis virus and leading to 24 deaths.
Social worker Dattatraya Mane and 4 other petitioners have also sought direction to the 2 civic bodies to pay compensation of Rs25,000 to each of the 5,354 hepatitis affected persons claiming they not only had to incur expenditure for getting themselves treated at private hospitals, but also had to lose 4-5 months of wages because of the illness.
In the public interest litigation (PIL) filed through advocate DV Sutar, the petitioners have stated that KMC discharges about 100 million liters of sewage, most of it untreated and contrary to the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, per day into Panchganga river at various points in the city.
The PIL added that KMC’s sewage treatment plant is almost redundant and that the untreated sewage water deteriorates the quality of the river making it un-potable.
The PIL alleges that similarly untreated discharge from hundreds of cloth bleaching units in Ichalkaranji and 8 major industries, including some sugar factories and sewage from 174 villages finds its way into the same river.
According to the PIL, officers of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) visited the water filtration plant in Ichalkaranji and found that two out of six sand filters were not working and the sand used for filtering was of sub-standard quality.
The MPCB officials also found that 60% of Ichalkaranji town is not connected with underground gutters and there is leakage in waters supply lines from where gutter water enters the supply lines.
The petitioners allege that despite finding these anomalies and contraventions of the Water Act no action is initiated by MPCB against the officials and office bearers of the two civic bodies, and therefore, have also sought to initiate criminal as well as civil action against them.