New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has rapped the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and slapped a penalty of Rs 25 lakh on them for inaction over continued damage to river Ganga.
It noted that in Bihar there is practically no progress as not a single sewage infrastructure project has been completed.
Similarly, in West Bengal only three projects out of 22 have been completed and even for Jharkhand progress is not adequate, it said.
"The States of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are not represented in spite of orders of this tribunal by which we recorded strong disapproval to such attitude of the said States. Such insensitivity in a serious matter is a matter of concern.
"We direct the States of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to deposit Rs 25 lakh each by way of interim compensation for the continued damage to Ganga and inaction of the said States even in responding to this tribunal with the CPCB within a month which may be spent on restoration of the environment," the bench said.
The NGT also said that discharge of effluents is a criminal offence and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to prohibit any polluting industrial activity instead of partially allowing it.
"State of Uttar Pradesh may provide funds to the CPCB for remediation of Chromium dumps at Kanpur Dehat, Khanpur and Rakhi Mandi. Proper e-flows may be ensured from the Narora Barrage by the NMCG and the State of UP and compliance status may be furnished. UP may also take expeditious action for removing encroachments, identifying and notifying flood plains on the pattern of State of Uttarakhand," it said.
The UP chief secretary may personally monitor and ensure zero tolerance approach to the pollution of Ganga and take stern action against those responsible for failure, the tribunal said and directed him to file an affidavit before August 7.
NGT also noted the submission made by National Mission for Clean Ganga that out of 31 projects undertaken, only four have been completed and work in respect of four projects is still underway.
For the remaining work the timeline is proposed extending up to December, 2021, the tribunal noted and said that such progress can hardly be held to be satisfactory.
It also asked the Uttarakhand State Pollution Control Board to ascertain whether the level of faecal coliform is beyond parameters from Gaumukh to Rishikesh.
"We record our dissatisfaction with the progress particularly after all prescribed timelines are over and no adequate action has been taken against identified polluters, law violators and officers responsible for failure for vigorous monitoring, encroachments and pollution are undisputed. Orders of this tribunal remain uncomplied," it said.
Failure of the authorities is posing a danger to the environmental rule of law, NGT said, adding that continued failure is not only resulting in damage to the environment but also to public health.
"Unless prompt and stringent action to control pollution of Ganga is stopped, the tribunal may be left with no option but to recover cost of restoration from officers responsible for the failure and also require their prosecution. Accordingly, Uttarakhand chief secretary may monitor the matter, identify the persons responsible for failure, take credible action and file his own affidavit before the next date," the tribunal said.
During the hearing, Director General of NMCG Rajiv Ranjan Mishra appeared in person and assured that stringent action will be taken for the lapses in monitoring against identified persons within four weeks and compliance of directions of this tribunal will be taken up seriously.
"In the monitoring mechanism, identified persons will be made accountable for the targets already fixed. We make it clear that the NMCG will be treated to be doing its duty only if there is decrease in pollution load and improvement in water quality in the Ganga.
"The monitoring criteria must mainly focus on reduction of pollution load and improvement of water quality ensuring this must be specific responsibility of identified officers. Ganga pollution control has to be model for remedying pollution of other 351 polluted river stretches," it said.
With regard to flood plains, the NGT clarified that distance for no construction zone is to be measured from the Highest Flood Line (HFL) at least in the last 25 years.
"Such flood plains may be identified with longitude and latitude and no activity may be allowed therein except raising of plantations and setting up of bio-diversity parks. The concerned states in Ganga river basin may examine whether the responsibility of plantations and administrative control of areas beyond HFL can be handed over to the Forest Department exclusively," the tribunal said.
Even a drop of pollution in Ganga is a matter of concern and the attitude of all authorities should be stringent to protect the river, the NGT had earlier said while seeking concrete action plan on the issue.
It asked the NMCG to take remedial action so that assistance of a suitable person is provided to this tribunal with precise information failing which the tribunal may consider coercive measures against it.
The tribunal also asked the concerned states to take the matter seriously and assist the bench with precise information either through senior officers or through counsel.
The green panel had said people drank and bathed in the river with reverence, without knowing that it may adversely affect their health.