Water pollution situation is grim in the country, the National Green Tribunal said Friday and directed 100 per cent treatment of sewage entering the rivers across the country by March 31 next year. The NGT warned that if this is not done, the local bodies and concerned departments of the states and Union Territories (UTs) will be liable to pay compensation of Rs 5 lakh a month per drain in the case of river Ganga and Rs 5 lakh for default in commencement of setting up of sewage treatment plant.
While directing that an institutional mechanism be evolved for ensuring compliance of its directions, the NGT asked the chief secretaries of all the states and UTs to monitor the progress of the work, and at national level by the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti with the assistance of National Mission for Clean Ganga and Central Pollution Control Board.
“For the above purpose, a meeting at central level must be held with chief secretaries of all states and UTs at least once in a month (option of video conferencing facility is open) to take stock of the progress and to plan further action.”NMCG will be the nodal agency for compliance who may take the assistance of CPCB and may give its quarterly report to this tribunal commencing April 1, 2020,” the bench said.
The NGT observed that the world’s major civilizations developed along rivers and without water, there would be no human civilization. “We use water to drink, navigate, fish, wash, cool down, cook, travel, water plants etc. It is true that almost all the civilizations appeared on the banks of the big rivers. It shows how vital water is for our survival. The entire life is based on water, from birth to death. The civilization grew slowly on the soil of river Ganga which is considered holy and expanded to Sindhu and Sarasvati regions,” the bench said.
The chief secretaries may set up appropriate monitoring mechanism at state level specifying accountability of nodal authorities not below the secretary level and ensuring appropriate adverse entries in ACRs of erring officers, it said.
The NGT said it is the duty of the state to ensure access to clean drinking water which was part of the right to life and added that pollution of water in any form was required to be prevented.”Effective governance is the need of the hour. If pollution does not stop, the industry has to be stopped. If sewage dumping does not stop, local bodies have to be made accountable and the heads of local bodies are to be prosecuted,” it said.
The NGT had earlier formed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to makeover 350 river stretches across the country pollution-free. The tribunal had said that there has been deterioration in the quality of water in rivers in spite of the Water Act which was enacted way back in 1974 which was intended to bring about improvement.
The tribunal’s direction came after taking note of a news item in ‘The Hindu’ under the heading “More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB”.
According to the news item, 351 polluted river stretches have been noted by the CPCB and 117 such stretches are in the states of Assam, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The CPCB has apprised the concerned states of the extent of pollution in the rivers.