Centre, Haryana blame Delhi for Yamuna pollution
New Delhi: The Centre and Haryana government on Tuesday blamed Delhi for polluting the Yamuna even as the CPCB called the city state a habitual offender during a hearing by the Supreme Court on the falling quality of river’s water.
On January 13, the Supreme Court had initiated suo moto proceedings on the issue, seeking responses from Centre, CPCB, Delhi government and states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. On that day, a petition filed by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) pointed out alarming levels of ammonia in Yamuna, way beyond the permissible limits of 0.5 ppm. The DJB requested the court to direct Haryana government not to release pollutants into the water and squarely blamed the non-functional sewage treatment plants in Haryana behind the increased ammonia content in the river.
Amicus curiae Meenakshi Arora suggested the court to call for a report from the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC), which working under the National Green Tribunal (NGT) since 2018, to get a clear picture on the shortfalls in implementing steps to keep the river clean.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan who represented Haryana contradicted the allegations in the DJB petition. Divan said, “We supply unpolluted water. This projection about ammonia pollution in water is not at our end. The problem is happening not in Haryana, but in Delhi.”
The DJB did not comment on the allegations by Haryana and Centre.
The 3-judge bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran allowed two weeks for Haryana to file its response. The statement by Haryana found concurrence from the Centre as well.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati representing the Centre as well as CPCB said, “The affidavit by CPCB is getting ready. The figures give out a stark picture. Delhi is a habitual offender as far as pollution in river Yamuna is concerned.”
The court also allowed CPCB two weeks time to prepare its report as per the last order by identifying the municipalities along the stretch of the river which are yet to install sewage treatment plants (STP) or common effluent treatment plants.
Amicus curiae Meenakshi Arora informed the court that since 2018, the NGT had entrusted the Yamuna Monitoring Committee to monitor pollution in the river. She requested the court to seek a report on the steps carried out so far by the two-member committee comprising former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra and former expert member of NGT, BS Sajawan.
The bench said, “We direct the Yamuna Monitoring Committee to submit its report regarding recommendations made for improvement of water in Yamuna and the extent to which its recommendations were implemented.” Interestingly, this is the second time the apex court is suo moto examining pollution in river Yamuna. In July 1994, the Court took suo moto notice of a HT report “And Quiet Flows the Maili Yamuna”, monitored it for 23 years, and transferred it to NGT on April 24, 2017 to monitor further progress.
The Delhi government was also represented by senior advocate Mohan Katarki. He pointed out that in the suo moto proceedings, two other states – Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh also need to be added.
Ironically, on a day when the states sparred in the top court over ammonia pollution in Yamuna, Arora pointed out that as on January 18, water quality was “excellent” with ammonia level dropping to as low as 0.3 ppm. She said, “Where there is a will, there is a way. The court may observe that low level of ammonia concentration should be maintained.” On
December 25 last year, ammonia concentration peaked to 13 ppm as against the permissible limit of 0.5 ppm.
The DJB had stated on the last occasion that due to high ammonia content, its water treatment plants at Chandrawal, Wazirabad and Okhla functioned at nearly 50 per cent capacity. It had even accused Haryana of supplying less water than its promised share of 450 cusecs at Wazirabad. Divan appearing for Haryana denied the charges and said, “This petition is not maintainable. We are supplying far more water than the projected share.”