HT impact: Why aren’t you using funds to clean up Maharashtra, NHRC asks anti-pollution board
Taking note of HT’s May 14 report, the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) asked Maharashtra’s pollution monitoring agency to explain why it hasn’t used 80% of the funds allotted to bring pollution under control in 2015-17.
In 2015-16, the MPCB received Rs393.8 crore, but spent only Rs68.26 crore.
In 2016-17, of the Rs350 crore received, only Rs80 crore was spent. For 2017-18, the department has set a budget of Rs150 crore. While the MPCB has funds at its disposal, Mumbai continues to face overflowing dumping grounds, increasing air, noise and water pollution.
The NHRC directed the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) to file a report within three months.
“We received complaints from Mumbai citizens over the past month, with a copy of the Hindustan Times article that showed alleged negligence by the pollution board,” said a senior NHRC official. “After tallying the details with RTI documents, we realized a detailed investigation is required to address the problem that affects the health of citizens.”
The report, based on an RTI query filed by an activist, also stated that the MPCB is understaffed and poorly equipped to study rising pollution levels or come up with solutions.
For instance, the MPCB has 10 laboratories to record pollution levels and test water samples, of which only five are authorised by the Union environment ministry under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
The official said the probe needs to be carried out keeping in mind the effects of air, water and noise pollution and the impact on citizens as under the Human Rights Act, 1993.
“As the grievances are subject of the state, we see it fit that MSHRC drafts a complete report in accordance with the provisions of the act and highlight the remedial measures as well,” he said, adding the NHRC will monitor the status of the action taken.
MSHRC officials said a probe will be initiated against the pollution watchdog. “It will take us some time to collate documents and understand the issues. However, we will take action according to the NHRC directive,” said Justice SR Bannurmath, chairperson, MSHRC.