Uttarakhand high court has directed the Government of India to establish the inter-State Council under Article 263 of the Constitution of India for all the riparian States through which river Ganga flows i.e. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal, within a period of three months, for making recommendations to the Central Government in order to clean/rejuvenate river Ganga on the analogy of National Water Development Agency as well as Water Resources Development Council. The Central Government, shall consider the recommendations made by such Council within a period of three months and take necessary measures to restore river Ganga to its pristine glory. These and many other directions were issued by a division bench of Uttarakhand high court, comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Alok Sing, on 2 December 2016 in a public interest litigation case [Lalit Miglani v. State of Uttarakhand & others, Writ Petition (PIL) No.140 of 2015].
The petitioner, who is an advocate in Uttarakhand high court, highlighted the pollution of river Ganga. As per him, the authorities are remiss in discharge of their statutory duties. He said that the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) conducted a study and slotted the water of river Ganga in four categories: (a) being fit for drinking, (b) for bathing, (c) for agriculture and (d) for excessive pollution. The level of coliform bacteria in the river water is above the prescribed limit. The coliform found in the water should be below 50 mpn/100 ml to be fit for drinking; less than 500 mpn/100 ml for bathing and below 5000 mpn/100 ml for agricultural use. The present level of coliform in river Ganga has reached 5500 mpn/100 ml. The main cause attributed to the higher level of coliform is the disposal of human faeces, urine and sewage directly thrown into the river from its origin in Gaumukh till it reaches Haridwar. A startling revelation made in the petition was that the sewage of 89 million litres per day (mld) is released into river Ganga from 12 municipal towns that fall along its route. The quality of river Ganga has deteriorated so much that is not fit even for taking a bath. The untreated wastewater and effluents from various units are also discharged directly into the river. The Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at Jagjeetpur alone releases 129 million litres daily in the Ganga with a faecal coliform concentration of about 34 million/100 ml. It causes serious threats to the quality of river water as well as health hazards to million of devotees and the people who are dependent on the river.
The petitioner stated that though the respondents are aware of the situation of further decreasing quality of water, but they have not taken any preventive or remedial measures. The flora and fauna dependent on the river is also adversely affected. It is not only the Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats, who are directly releasing the untreated waste in the water, but several Ashrams are also throwing faecal waste in Ganga. Petitioner has highlighted that the sewer lines should be diverted away from river Ganga and the capacity of Sewage Treatment Plants be enhanced.
The high court observed that it is the duty of the statutory authorities to maintain the parameters and standards under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as well as under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Rules framed thereunder.
Based on a report, the high court noted that there are 36 Class-I cities and 14 Class-II towns along the mainstream of Ganga. Fifty cities (Class I & Class II) discharge 2723.3 MLD wastewater, out of which 1208.8 MLD has the treatment capacities i.e. 44%. The contribution of Class I cities is 96% of total wastewater generation and the treatment capacity is almost 99% of the total treatment capacity. It was further noted that State of Uttarakhand generated 39.6 MLD i.e. about 27% of total wastewater generation. Uttar Pradesh generated 873.9 MLD i.e. 34% of total wastewater generation. With respect to Bihar, wastewater generation is 376.5 MLD i.e. 14% of total wastewater generation. The State of West Bengal generates 1311 MLD i.e. 50% of total wastewater generation and major city is Kolkata i.e. 47%.
The Central Pollution Control Board has identified 764 industries in the main stem of Ganga viz. Chemical, Distillery, Food, Dairy & Beverage, Pulp & Paper, Sugar, Textile, Bleaching & Dyeing, Tannery and others.
In a detailed judgment running into 79 pages, the high court referred to various authorities, reports and replies submitted by respondents, to identify the causes that polluted river Ganga. After a detailed hearing, the high court gave following detailed mandatory directions to various authorities:
A. The Union of India is directed to establish the inter-State Council under Article 263 of the Constitution of India for all the riparian States through which river Ganga flows i.e. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal, within a period of three months from today, for making recommendations to the Central Government in order to clean/rejuvenate river Ganga on the analogy of National Water Development Agency as well as Water Resources Development Council. The inter-State Council shall make recommendations to the Central Government, within a period of three months after its constitution, to the Central Government. The Central Government, shall consider the same within a further period of three months and take necessary measures to restore river Ganga to its pristine glory.
B. Respondent no.5- Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga is directed to accord sanction of Rs.266.09 crores, as per the DPR sent to it by the State Programme Management Group (SPMG), within a period of six weeks from today. The funds shall be used exclusively by the Uttarkhand Peyjal Nigam for interception and diversion of leftover drains for existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), new STPs and other effluent works at Haridwar. The State Government is directed to enhance the capacity of Sewage Treatment Plants at Haridwar and Rishikesh, within a period of three months from today, taking into consideration the sewage load in these two towns.
C. Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) is directed to install Sewage Treatment Plant of having capacity of 11 MLD, as per the direction issued by respondent no.2-Uttarakhand Environment Protection & Pollution Control Board on 21.12.2015, within six months from today, if not already installed.
D. All the 21 Hydroelectric Projects located in the mainstream of River Ganga are hereby directed to install Sewage Treatment Plants of appropriate capacity during construction phase and thereafter, at operational phases, within a period of six months from today.
E. Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga, is directed to install the Sewage Treatment Plant, having capacity of 40 MLD, at Jagjeetpur, sanctioned by it on 29.9.2015, by completing the process within three months from today.
F. Respondent No.2-Uttarakhand Environment Protection & Pollution Control Board is directed to take action against those 180 Industries, to whom the Show cause Notices have been issued in the Year 2015-16 as per Annexure No.4, and to complete the same within three months from today.
G. Industries mentioned at Serial Nos.1 to 44, to whom Closure Notices have already been issued in the Year 2014-15, are hereby ordered to be closed/shut forthwith by the concerned District Magistrate.
H. 106 Industries, to whom Closure Notices have been issued in the Year 2015-16, are also ordered to be closed/shut forthwith by the concerned District Magistrate.
I. The State Government is directed to take appropriate action against the respondent no.2 – State Environment Protection & Pollution Control Board under Section 62 of the Act of 1974 within a period of six months from today, since it has failed to discharge its statutory duties under the State Act.
J. The Union of India is also directed to issue necessary directions to the respondent no.2 – Board to strictly implement the environmental laws in order to protect and preserve River Ganga and in case, the respondent no.2-State Board fails to comply with the directions and a grave emergency arises due to further degradation of water quality in Ganga, the Central Government may order the Central Pollution Board to perform the functions of the State Board in the entire stretch of area covering River Ganga and its other tributaries in the State of Uttarakhand.
K. The competent authorities are also directed to initiate criminal proceedings against the defaulters for contravention of the provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as well as the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 within three months.
L. It is made clear that the Ashrams at Haridwar would be ordered to be sealed and closed down by the District Magistrate/Senior Superintendent of Police of the area, where these Ashrams are located, in case the untreated sewage is permitted by them to flow in the Ganga directly without treatment.
M. After three months, no industry/hotel/ commercial establishment/educational institution shall discharge untreated sewage/ industrial effluents in River Ganga without its treatment. In case of failure, the competent authority is directed to take stern action against these commercial establishments. All the drains opening into the river Ganga shall be sealed and closed after three months.
N. The most pollutant units situated on the banks of river Ganga are ordered to be re-located by following the norms laid down by the Their Lordships in the judgments, quoted hereinabove.
O. No person shall litter/defecate/urinate, in open, within a radius of 500 meters on both sides of river Ganga. The State Government is directed to make suitable amendments in the municipal laws by imposing stringent fines including imprisonment. Any person found littering/urinating/defecating in open on the banks of river Ganga, shall be imposed a fine of Rs.5,000/-. The concerned District Magistrates of the State shall be personally responsible to carry out these directions. The District Magistrates of the concerned district are directed to put up suitable number of Notice Boards on all the Ghats and religious places, falling in their territorial jurisdiction, about these directions. The Sub Divisional Magistrates are permitted to take cognizance of the matter till the municipal laws are suitably amended. Suitable number of Mobile Magistrates shall remain posted on Har- ki-Pauri at Haridwar.
P. It is further directed that there shall be a total ban of sale, use and storage of plastic carry bags throughout the State of Uttarakhand w.e.f. 01.01.2017. No person shall be permitted to bring carry bags in the State of Uttarakhand by any means of transport, including the bus, trains and air. The State Government shall launch a special campaign to make the people aware to use paper or Jute bags to save the environment.
Q. The State Government is directed to ensure that the people should not use soap, oil and shampoo while taking a bath in river Ganga. Bathing of cattle in river Ganga is also banned forthwith.
R. Begging is also prohibited in all the holy places in the State of Uttarakhand.
S. The State Government is directed to provide Skimmers in sufficient numbers to clean Ganga at Haridwar, Rishikesh and downstream.
T. The Forest Research Institute is directed to prepare the fresh D.P.R. for aforestation for the basin and banks of river Ganga.
U. The Municipal Bodies, throughout the State of Uttarakhand, are directed to dispose of the garbage in scientific lines by setting up Treatment Plants, as provided under the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000 within six months.
V. There shall also be a direction not to permit new industries based on water like Sugarcane, Pulp/ Paper Industries, Distilleries, Textile Industries etc. within a radius of two kilometres from the banks of river Ganga. No new commercial establishment employing more than 50 persons including the hotels, having capacity of more than 50 guests, shall be permitted to operate henceforth, without setting up Effluent Treatment Plant or Sewage Treatment Plan. This direction shall also be applicable for big Ashrams housing more than 100 devotees.
W. We recommend/suggest the Union of India to frame the law exclusively for River Ganga to save it from extinction.
X. The Municipal Corporation, Haridwar as well as the Municipal Council, Rishikesh are directed to construct sufficient number of toilets, based on the technology employed in the toilets used in aeroplanes in order to maintain hygiene in the religious places.
Y. The State Government should declare “River Conservation Zones” where no construction activity should be permitted on the banks of river Ganga from the highest flood plain by private as well as governmental agencies.
Z. The Comptroller and Auditor General is directed to conduct a special audit of all the Centrally Financed Schemes launched to rejuvenate river Ganga as well as the amount spent by the State Governments for rejuvenation of river Ganga, within a period of six months and to place the same before His Excellency, the President of India.
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