NGT pulls up Chandigarh admn over release of untreated sewage into Ghaggar
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has come down heavily on the Chandigarh administration for its failure to stop the discharge of untreated effluents into the Ghaggar River.
The tribunal bench, presided over by NGT chairperson and former Supreme Court judge AK Goel (justice retired), directed UT to ensure that sewage from the city flowing into the Ghaggar River is treated and sought a report within two months.
It directed the Punjab chief secretary and UT adviser in coordination with other officials concerned, to take appropriate remedial measures and ensure zero discharge of untreated water out of city.
It took serious view of an application filed by lawyer and activist Sunaina, who had told NGT that contaminated water from Chandigarh enters nullahs in Mohali and the river, which is used by nearby farmers for cultivation, thus polluting the entire food chain and jeopardising the health of people and aquatic life. The plea wanted the administration and Punjab to install necessary sewage treatment plants.
“If the state itself fails to implement the law, it is nothing but a breakdown of the system itself. Is this tribunal to just remain silent on such gross failure or hold highest authorities accountable by directing their prosecution for their criminal failure and indirectly being party to the crime against the law of the land? We expect answers to these questions from the states,” the NGT bench observed.
It further said that for delay and continued violation, realistic compensation has to be recovered from the erring officers, apart from other action or in default, the compensation has to be quantified and recovered. It also sought recommendation from an executive NGT committee in this regard
“We hope that the states realise their responsibility to function according to the Constitution and take immediate remedial measures by punishing the guilty of failing to comply with the law and also take prompt measures instead of repeatedly taking the same plea of being engaged in tender process or DPRs. It should not be difficult at this length of time to overcome such procedural requirements and to effectively prevent discharge of the untreated effluents after 46 years of enactment of Water Act and repeated orders of the Supreme Court and other courts,” the bench said.
It was in 2019, directions were issued to ensure release of 100% treated water into rivers and nullahs by March March 31, 2020. However, NGT observed that there is hardly any significant improvement. “It is breach of public trust under Public Trust Doctrine. We are left with a feeling that there is no commitment to the rule of law and no concern for the environment and health of the citizens on the part of the authorities concerned,” it said.