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Penalty strike: Day after NGT order, people continue to pollute Ganga in Haridwar

Many wonder how the NGT plans to implement its order, considering that its prescribed distance of “500 metres” means that many parts of the city now come under the ban.

dehradun Updated: Jul 16, 2017 21:00 IST
Sandeep Rawat
Sandeep Rawat
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Ganga,National Green Tribunal,NGT
Many revere the Ganga, but few really care for it. The river continues be abused by pilgrims and local residents despite an NGT verdict that bans wilfully polluting it. (Sheeraz Rizvi/ HT photo)

People continued to dump trash into the Ganga river and its adjoining areas on Friday, a day after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed that a penalty of Rs 50,000 be imposed on anybody littering within 500 metres from the river’s edge.

Most of the locals, traders and Kanwar pilgrims visiting the river still seemed clueless about the NGT order. So, blissful in their ignorance, they left polythene bags, leftover eatables and other discarded items at various points of the river – including the sanctum sanctorum of Har-Ki-Pauri – like they have been doing for ages now.

Kanwar pilgrims – who come from various places across western Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan to take a dip in the Ganga during the monsoon – could be seen chucking bamboo sticks into the river. Among them was Nanhe Kumar from Meerut, who dutifully disposed of a few polythene bags in the sacred water body.

When the NGT order was brought to his notice, Kumar simply shrugged. “Such directives mean nothing to us. Kanwariyas need to leave their old bamboo sticks (used to carry Ganga water), their pilgrimage attire and other materials in the Ganga at Haridwar. It’s a matter of tradition,” he said.

Besides pilgrims, makeshift eateries that have illegally cropped up on the banks of the river are a major contributor to its pollution problem. Bhavesh Saini, who owns a stall at Pantdeep Ganga ghat, said he was not informed about the Rs 50,000 penalty. “For the last few years, we have been dumping leftover food and waste just adjacent to the Ganga ghat. But we wouldn’t do that if the civic authorities provided us with a garbage bin,” he said.

A man gazes at a garbage-strewn Ganga in Kanpur. ( Priyanka Parashar/ Mint )

Others wondered how the NGT plans to implement its order, considering that its prescribed distance of “500 metres” means that many parts of the city now come under the ban.

The tribunal had directed the authorities to impose the penalty on anybody violating the order between Haridwar and Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao. However, there seemed to be no change in people’s attitude across Hardiwar, be it Brahamkund, Malviya Deep, Kangra ghat, Pantdeep West Chain ghat, Bhagirath ghat, Nai Sota or Alaknanda Ganga ghats.

Mayor Manoj Garg said the municipal corporation had spent the last three years trying to ensure that people do not dump garbage in the river. “We will soon start sensitising people through awareness drives, making them understand how they are harming an ancient river that’s been accorded a status equivalent to their own mother,” he added.

JP Baduni, a social activist who has filed numerous RTI applications on Ganga pollution, said the NGT has no powers to implement the order it has passed. However, district magistrate Deepak Rawat gave his assurance that the administration would ensure proper implementation of the tribunal order after due perusal.

The NGT had passed a similar order in 2015, banning the use of plastic products along the river’s Gaumukh-Hardiwar stretch. It did not help achieve anything substantial. Plastic bottles, cans and canisters for carrying river water continue to be sold at Har-Ki-Pauri and adjacent areas. “Nothing much can be done about this unless the government bans the manufacture and sale of polythene items,” said Mahanagar Vyapar Mandal president Sunil Shetty.

First Published: Jul 14, 2017 19:56 IST