THE National Green Tribunal (NGT) has fined the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal Rs 25 lakh each for their inaction in preventing the continued pollution of the River Ganga.
“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 the failure for vigorous monitoring, encroachments and pollution are undisputed. Orders of this Tribunal remain uncompiled,” a four-judge bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said on May 31, 2019, while considering the implementation of its orders dated May 14, 2019, July 13, 2017, and December 10, 2015. The order had been given in pursuance of M C Mehta v Union of India & others C.WRIT PETITION No. 3727/1985) (M.A. No. 594/2017 & 598/2017)regarding the cleaning up of the River Ganga.
“Unless prompt and stringent action to control pollution of Ganga is stopped, the tribunal may be left with no option but to recover the 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 the failure, take credible action and file his own affidavit before the next date,” the tribunal said.
The Tribunal observed, that while in Bihar there was no advancement regarding completion of sewage treatment infrastructure projects, in West Bengal just three out of the 22 tasks had been finished, In Jharkhand too the progress is not adequate.
“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,” the bench observed, while directing the three states 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 (Central Pollution Control Board) within a month which may be spent on restoration of the environment.”
Slow and unacceptable progress
NGT additionally noticed the submission made by “National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)”, that of the 31 projects undertaken, only four had been completed and work in respect of four projects were still underway. For the rest of the work, the course of events was proposed to extend up to December 2021. Such advancement can barely be held to be acceptable, the tribunal observed.
Pointing out that the release of effluents into the river was a criminal offence, it ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to preclude any contaminating industrial activity rather than in part permitting it.
“State of Uttar Pradesh may provide funds to the CPCB for remediation of chromium dumps at Kanpur Dehat, Khanpur and Rakhi Mandi. Proper-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 tribunal said the failure of the authorities was not only posing a threat to the environmental rule of law but, it was also harming the ecology and general public health.