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NGT slaps Rs 50-cr fine on Punjab government for polluting Sutlej, Beas

The NGT had clubbed cases of river pollution in Punjab, one based on a 2014 petition from Rajasthan-based activists Shabnam Godara and Sobha Singh of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan, which claimed that polluted water from the Sutlej and Beas, entering the state through the Indira Gandhi Canal, was affecting eight districts there.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2018 12:14 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
NGT,NGT fines punjab govt,sutlej-beas pollution
File photo of littered Sutlej river bank in Ludhiana a day after Chhath festival. (HT File Photo )

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday slapped a fine of Rs 50 crore on the Punjab government for polluting Sutlej and Beas rivers due to uncontrolled industrial discharge.

The bench had clubbed several similar cases, including the one dealing with the death of fish due to molasses discharge from a sugar industry in Gurdaspur district in May this year.

The bench headed by justice AK Goyal has asked the Punjab government to recover the fine from industries in two weeks. “Earlier a committee headed by Central Pollution Control Board, of which Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) was a part, submitted a report saying it found that the industrial discharge was not being treated as treatment plants were not functioning,” PPCB counsel Nagendra Benipal said.

The tribunal clubbed some other cases of river pollution in Punjab, one based on a 2014 petition from Rajasthan-based activists Shabnam Godara and Sobha Singh of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan, which claimed that polluted water from the Sutlej and Beas, entering the state through the Indira Gandhi Canal, was affecting eight districts there. Indira Gandhi Canal the longest canal of India. It starts from the Harike barrage, a few kilometres below the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers in Punjab and terminates in irrigation facilities in the Thar Desert in the northwest Rajasthan.

The next date of hearing is on February 27.

In August this year, the NGT formed a committee comprising environmentalist from Punjab Balbir Singh Seechewal, along with members from the pollution control boards of Punjab and Rajasthan and the Central Pollution Control Board to look into the matter.

Seechewal said the committee report contradicted the Punjab government’s claim that 33 of the 34 sewage treatment plants (STP) along Buddha Nullah and Kala Sanghian Drain were functional. “But we found that only one STP was functional. The rest were either non-functional or not treating sewage or industrial waste properly,” said Seechewal.

“We welcome the decision, but we want the things to change on ground so that people of Rajasthan get clean water,” said Godara. She said those responsible for polluting river waters should be punished.

Showing inability to act against violators, PPCB chairman SS Marwaha said the board was only an enforcing and regulatory body.

“The local bodies and other state departments had to work out the solutions and our role is to ascertain whether the solutions planned are practical,” he said, adding that in the past, the PPCB has been cautioning the local bodies and other departments to make sewage treatment plants functional, but to no avail.

Principal secretary, local bodies department, A Venu Prasad said he can comment only after reading the NGT orders.

The green tribunal is expected to pronounce order on paddy stubble burning in Punjab on Thursday. For past three years, the tribunal has been asking state departments to impose penalty on violators and has asked the Prime Minister’s office to intervene and give machinery to farmers to manage stubble. Despite a Rs 665 crore subsidy plan, farmers are resorting to stubble burning and this year, the number of cases has already touched 40,000 in Punjab.

First Published: Nov 15, 2018 12:14 IST