Cleaning of Ulhas, Waldhuni rivers in Mumbai: Sewerage network, treatment plants to be set up
The Rs100 crore set aside for the cleaning of Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers will be used to set up a sewerage network and effluent treatment plants in Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Badlapur and Kalyan-Dombivli, all areas that release untreated domestic and industrial waste into the river.
“We will abide by the directions of the SC and once we receive written orders, we will ensure the funds are allocated,” said a senior state official. “We have already begun restoration work with various think tanks and environment bodies in consultation with civic chiefs. A plan is in place and restoration work will start soon.”
Zaman Ali, the counsel appearing for the petitioners, said affidavits submitted by municipal corporations stated that they have huge financial constraints in setting up the waste treatment facilities. “The judge asked the chief secretary whether he could give an undertaking in court to disburse Rs100 crore,” said Ali.
P Anbalagan, member secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, who was present during the hearing told HT that the verbal order, which was dictated by the court, stated that Rs100 crore needs to be provided for the establishment of facilities to ensure reduction in pollution and restoration of the rivers. He added that it will be a three-step process. “The first step will be to not allow any further pollution to happen. For this, all four urban local bodies need to reach a 10 milligram per litre (mg/l) biological oxygen demand (BOD) - the concentration of oxygen required for sustaining aquatic life - standard against acceptable limits of 20 mg/l. This will prevent further deterioration of water quality and increase dilution,” he said.
The second measure is that all six Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation effluent treatment plants need to treat wastes to a stringent standard of 30 mg/l BOD. “They need to lay a 17.5km pipeline from Ambernath and another 7km one from Dombivli, so that the effluents are discharged deep into the creek post treatment for more dilution,” said Anbalagan. “Existing CETPs (common effluent treatment plants) in the municipal corporations will be upgraded.”
The petitioners said that nothing was done to reduce pollution in the rivers even two years after the National Green Tribunal judgement. “The game of passing the blame has come to an end as the highest officer in the state has been put to task of reviving the degraded rivers,” said Stalin D, director, Vanshakti.
In August, the SC had directed Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur and the National Institute of Oceanography to develop a plan to restore the rivers.
Timeline of the Ulhas, Waldhuni pollution case
•In 2012, Vanashakti filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal to direct the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to shut all polluting industries discharging untreated effluents into the Ulhas river.
•In July 2015, NGT indicted Dombivili Industries Association (DBESA), Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation, the Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation, the Ambarnath Municipal Council etc. as being guilty of polluting Ulhas with untreated industrial and domestic wastes. The judgement imposed a penalty of Rs 96 crores to restore the river and ordered that a time bound revival plan be put in place.
•Government agencies moved the Bombay High Court (HC), which stayed the tribunal’s order on the fine.
•In 2016, Vanashakti filed a special leave petition challenging the HC’s decision.
•On July 5, the SC passed an order staying the HC judgement.
•The apex court on July 17 directed the respondents to pay the fine and said that the civic bodies and the industries have the option of either filing a review in NGT or take the matter to the SC itself, within three weeks. The respondents chose the latter.
•On October 6 that the SC bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta directed the state chief secretary and municipal commissioners from all municipal corporations to be present in person and rapped the state yet again for taking inadequate steps to reduce pollution at Ulhas and Waldhuni.