NGT raps Punjab, Haryana, HP for pollution in Ghaggar
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has come down heavily on Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana for failing to stop the discharge of untreated effluents in the Ghaggar river and said that “if the state itself fails in implementing the law, it is nothing but breakdown of the system itself”.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the three states and Chandigarh continue to contribute to water pollution, which is a criminal offence.
“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 in the states of HP, Haryana, Punjab and UT Chandigarh,” said the bench, also comprising justice Sudhir Agarwal.
The tribunal directed the chief secretary, Punjab, and the adviser to the administrator, Union Territory of Chandigarh and other concerned officers to take appropriate remedial measures to comply with the mandate of law, including the directions of the Supreme Court.
It also directed a joint committee of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Punjab PCB and pollution control committee of Chandigarh to inspect the drain and furnish a status report within two months by e-mail.
The tribunal said in spite of enactment of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, making discharge of untreated effluents into a water body a criminal offence, the states are still struggling to prevent untreated sewage from being discharged into the water body at a huge cost to the environment and health and lives of citizens who have fundamental right to clean environment under the Constitution.
“Water pollution is a serious threat to the health of the citizens as well as other living beings who consume the water and also to the food safety for growth of which the water is used for irrigation...there can be no justification whatsoever for the State to have failed in complying with the law.
The green panel said that no action is being taken against the erring officers and it gives an impression that there is collapse of environmental rule of law.
“Who is to pay the cost of damage to the environment and public health of large number of unidentified citizens and other living creatures? Is such cost being calculated? How officers responsible for damage by their inaction or otherwise are being dealt with. Should the State be held liable vicariously for such failure and failure to punish the guilty,” the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea against failure of statutory authorities in Punjab and Chandigarh to install sewage treatment plant, resulting in discharge of pollution in the drain originating from Chandigarh and passing through various sectors and villages of Mohali, before merging into the Ghaggar river.