Rs 50,000 fine for dumping waste within 500 metres of Ganga, rules green court

The apex environment watchdog directed all authorities concerned to complete various projects including setting up of a sewage treatment plant and cleaning drains within two years.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2017 13:27 IST
Malvika Vyawahare
Malvika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The River Ganga begins as a confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers high in Devprayag with its waters crystal clear, but pollution and excessive human influence transform it into toxic sludge as it courses through India’s holiest cities, agricultural and industrial belts, merging finally into the Bay of Bengal. (Danish Siddiqui / Reuters)

People dumping waste in the Ganga will be liable to pay Rs 50,000 in environmental damages, said an exhaustive 543-page judgment by the National Green Tribunal on long-running Ganga clean up case announcing a slew of measures, fines, and strict deadlines.

Unlike the past when the tribunal dealt with the clean up one stretch at a time, the current judgment deals with measures for the cleanup of the 500 km stretch from Haridwar to Unnao that lies in Uttar Pradesh. This stretch includes 86 drains that deposit polluted water into the river.

The measures include precautionary dredging of all the drains that discharge effluents into the river and fines for dumping waste within 500 metres of the edge of the river and its tributaries. A zone of 100 metres from the edge of the river was declared a no development zone and turned into green belts.

All 86 drains and sewage lines be dredged and the work should be completed within 6 weeks from the date of pronouncement, the tribunal said. Work on the other projects must commence within years months, and laying of pipelines within two years.

“We have not done the blame game like you,” chairperson of the NGT, Swantanter Kumar, said to the government agencies, terming the clean up of the Ganga an “extraordinary” task.

The final directions to various government agencies ran into around 100 pages.

The tribunal reiterated that in view of the Prime Minister declaring it a national project with a 20,000 crore outlay there is no dearth of funds

The central government has spent over R. 4800 crore to clean Ganga and its tributaries from 1986 till June 30, the environment ministry informed the tribunal during the course of the case. Of the Rs. 6788.78 crore that was allotted, Rs. 1934.30 crore remain unspent.

However, the river has not seen any substantial improvement in water quality. High levels of faecal coliform that is present in sewage is a problem throughout the length of the river, according to CPCB data. In some of the holiest sites on the river the water is not even of bathing quality

The tribunal also announced the setting up of supervisory and implementation committees, that have representatives from various ministeries,experts and state government officials, that will be responsible for coming up with action plans to implement the measures laid down in the judgment. They will have to submit an action plan within two weeks of the pronouncement of the judgment.

By noon on Thursday the judgment will be online. “Don tell us you didn’t know, the bench said. “You had two months, now these 6 weeks will be a noose around your neck,” Justice Kumar said addressing the counsel for the environment ministry.

Once the projects will be completed it is likely to bring down the pollution load in the river by 27%.

First Published: Jul 13, 2017 13:03 IST