Parliamentary panel asks govt to revisit target on units polluting Ganga

By: | Published: May 15, 2016 3:49 PM

Terming as "unrealistic" the deadlines set for converting polluting industries located along the Ganga into zero liquid discharge (ZLD) units, a Parliamentary panel has asked two central ministries...

Terming as “unrealistic” the deadlines set for converting polluting industries located along the Ganga into zero liquid discharge (ZLD) units, a Parliamentary panel has asked two central ministries to jointly revisit their targets and ensure they are achieved by March 2017.

According to the Estimates Committee of Parliament, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) had set a target of turning distilleries and textile units emptying untreated effluents in Ganga into ZLD by September 2016 and December 2016 respectively.

On the other hand, the panel noted, the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD and GR) had set “different” deadlines of March 2016 and March 2017 for converting the distilleries and textile into ZLD units respectively.

The committee said the MoEF and CC has, as per its action plan, proposed to make tanneries located along the river stretch ZLD in two years from the time the detailed project report (DPR) was prepared in July 2015, different from the WR, RD and GR’s deadline of March 2017.

In respect of polluting pulp and paper units though, the panel said, both the Ministries stated that these will be made ZLD units by March 2017.

“The Committee find the deadlines prescribed for the grossly polluting units to become ZLD units rather unrealistic and far from practical.

“…both the Ministries of EF&CC & WR, RD&GR should jointly have a relook at the targets set for completion of the said works and ensure that both the industries become ZLD by March 2017…and the evaluation of projects be done on regular basis and position of the review reflected in the report of the ministry laid in Parliament annually,” the Committee said in its report tabled on May 11.

The panel also recommended that the Government offer incentives to small scale grossly polluting industries (GPIs) rather than impose hefty penalties on them to ensure the units are not shut and jobs of “substantial” number of people employed with them are protected.

The Committee, headed by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, also recommended that these units are provided technical knowhow from government-owned academic and research institutes at subsidised rates so that they become ZLD units.

“The availability of easy finance may be ensured at affordable rates from the banks and or Interest Subvention and Viability Gap Funding (VGF) may be given expeditiously,” it suggested.

Among other issues, the panel observed toilets being built under Swachh/Nirmal Abhiyan are not being used by beneficiaries as they “lack privacy, comfort and generate stinking smell” forcing people concerned to defecate in open.

The panel recommended that suitable provision may be incorporated under ‘Namami Gange’ programme to provide low-cost and environment-friendly biodigester toilets in villages and towns located along the Ganga.

The panel made a strong pitch for using bio-fertilisers and less water-guzzling irrigation methods to cut losses caused by over extraction of water from the river.

It recommended that farm land located within specific distance of Ganga and other important aquifers should become mandated organic farming zones.

The producers (farmers) should be incentivised suitably and educated about the advantages of organic farming in the long run, the panel added.

The committee suggested that environmental flows (e-flow) be fixed for each river and place where dams/reservoirs/ irrigation canals are built, taking into consideration the mean figures for the last 50 years of the water flow during lean and non-lean season.

“A third party assessment of e-flows may also be considered periodically,” it said.

The committee recommended preservation and construction of water bodies in catchment areas of rivers including Ganga and protecting flood plains from any encroachment, sand extraction and channelisation of the river at all cost to safeguard its rejuvenation.

The committee underscored the need for bringing in a legislative framework for integrated river basin management for the purpose of eliminating delays in completion of sewage infrastructure projects, protection of river ecology, maintaining groundwater table, regulation of water withdrawal for industrial, agricultural and human use due to various reasons.

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