Stop 'crime of pollution', NGT tells UP govt over discharge of sewage in rivers joining Ganga

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New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal has come down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh government over discharge of untreated sewage in rivers joining the Ganga and said there was no indication how 'crime of pollution' is to be prevented by the State.

Terming the situation extremely 'unsatisfactory', a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said remedial action needs to be taken for contamination of Ramgarh lake as also the Ami, Rapti and Rohani rivers in and around Gorakhpur.

Perusing a report filed by a committee, the green panel said there is large scale non-compliance by the authorities concerned in discharge of their public duties.

'It is high time that periodically the Chief Secretary personally reviews the matter to ensure compliance of directions of the Supreme Court requiring preventing discharge of untreated sewage and trade effluents, solid waste management and rejuvenation of Ganga,' the tribunal said.

The NGT directed the UP Chief Secretary to oversee the execution of river rejuvenation plans for Ami, Rapti, Rohani, Saryu and Ghagra and fix the timelines for rejuvenation of different components with necessary budgetary support and designating the authorities/ officers responsible for it.

'Such projects cannot be delayed on the pretext of funding by the National Mission for Clean Ganga in view of the fact that preventing discharge of pollutants in Ganga or other water bodies a criminal offence under the Water Act and even authorities are liable to be prosecuted for such offences in the light of the judgement of the Supreme Court.

'Compliance of the said judgement is not dependent on funding by the NMCG,' the bench said.

The tribunal noted that an action plan has already been prepared for remediation of Ami and other rivers in 2019 which is available on the website of the state pollution control board and it same has been duly approved by the River Rejuvenation Committee of UP.

'If it is so, the action needs to be taken promptly in accordance with the said plan.

The execution of plan may be time-bound and supported by the necessary budget. Persons accountable may be specified,' the bench said.

The NGT also noted that six out of 24 drains carrying untreated effluent to the Tapti river which meets river Ghagra which in turns goes to Ganga have been tapped and the remaining 18 drains continue to discharge untreated sewage/effluent in river Rapti.

'This situation is extremely unsatisfactory. Only steps mentioned are that CETP is under construction with a timeline and there is a proposal to set up STP again without any timeline and with no indication as to how continuing crime of pollution affecting the environment and the public health is to be prevented if the State is committed to the rule of law and protection of health of its citizens,' it said.

'Does it mean that crime is to continue? If State authorities behave in such an irresponsible manner, it is hardly conducive to the rule of law. Thus, the erring officers need to be proceeded against for their failure.,' the tribunal said.

It directed the Chief Secretary and the Oversight Committee headed by former high court judge to file reports within three months.

The NGT was hearing a plea by Gorakhpur resident Meera Shukla who had contended that the district does not have any STP and entire sewage through different drains is directly discharged into water bodies or river Rapti.

She had claimed there were more than 500 deaths in 2014 alone due to high contamination of water and alleged that a large sum of money had been spent without any effective measures and control of water pollution. PTI PKS SA