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River pollution: NGT forms separate monitoring panel for Punjab

By Gagandeep Jassowal, Jalandhar
PUBLISHED ON OCT 07, 2019 01:19 AM IST

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a separate panel to monitor pollution in the Sutlej, Beas and its tributaries as well as to manage solid waste in Punjab.

The new monitoring committee will be headed by former Punjab and Haryana high court judge justice Jasbir Singh, with environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal as its member. The committee headed by justice Pritam Pal, also a former Punjab and Haryana high court judge and ex-Haryana Lokayukta, will monitor pollution in Ghaggar and solid waste management in Haryana and Chandigarh. The NGT appointed another member, Urvashi Gulati, former chief secretary of Haryana, to the committee headed by justice Pritam Pal.

In September last year, the NGT appointed justice Pritam Pal as chairman of the executing committee monitoring pollution in the Ghaggar. But in March this year, he was also made the head of monitoring committee to look into pollution in the Sutlej and Beas in Punjab.

The NGT order came following a letter by justice Pritam Pal, wherein he suggested that looking at the magnitude of work, the tribunal could form another panel which could monitor progress and oversee preventive and remedial action to restore quality of river water to the prescribed level in Punjab.

Counsels of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh also supported the suggestion of forming another committee. The NGT order reads: “The committee will work in continuation of the earlier proceedings and without prejudice.” The tribunal fixed November 22 as the next date of hearing.

Justice Pritam Pal told HT over the phone that the committee was overburdened as it included travelling from the one state to another. “In the coming days, challenges will increase due to stubble burning, which is why I wrote to the NGT urging it to form another committee for Punjab,” he said.

The committee’s report in June this year categorised the water quality at the entry point of Sutlej in Punjab as “Class B” (not fit for human consumption or irrigation of crops). The quality of water at Harike Lake, the point of Sutlej-Beas confluence, was even worse and was classified as “Class C”. The committee recommended to the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to install seven online real-time water quality monitoring systems.

The committee report also shed light on efficiency of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Punjab. Of the 53 STPs inspected, 30 did not meet the committee’s standards, for which the panel blamed old technology and unskilled manpower for poor performance. It recommended the PPCB to monitor the sludge in STPs quarterly.

PPCB chairman Satwinder Singh Marwaha said: “We have prepared an action plan related to river pollution and things are moving fast. We have identified stakeholders and roles of departments have been fixed. The change will be visible in the coming five months.”

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