A Bench of the National Green Tribunal comprising of the Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson), Justice M.S. Nambiar (Judicial Member), Dr. D.K. Agrawal (Expert Member) and Prof. A.R. Yousuf (Expert Member) issued 28 directions for implementation of the project called, ‘Maily Se Nirmal Yamuna’ Revitalization Project, 2017, to be completed by 31st March, 2017.
Under these directions, the bench put a spot fine of Rs 5,000 on anyone spotted throwing waste in Yamuna, as is generally seen in Delhi where people dispose worship material waste into the holy river from bridges across it. It also put a fine of Rs 50,000 on dumping of construction debris in the river.
The Bench was primarily concerned with that section of River Yamuna which flows in the National Capital Territory (for short ‘NCT’) of Delhi.
Highlighting the need for taking steps in this regard, the Bench observed, “The State instrumentalities and authorities have failed to discharge their Constitutional and statutory duties, while citizens have failed to discharge their Fundamental Duty to protect the environment, particularly in relation to River Yamuna…… The authorities, as well as the people of Delhi owe a Fundamental Duty to do everything in their power to ensure restoration of River Yamuna to its natural flow and tranquility. Thus, there is dire need to take stringent and effective steps, with a determined mind, to ensure that none fails in performance of their respective functions, duties and obligations to achieve the ultimate goal of converting ‘Maily Yamuna’ into ‘Nirmal Yamuna’ under the project ‘Maily Se Nirmal Yamuna’ Revitalization Plan, 2017.”
The Applicant, Mr. Manoj Mishra, is a retired officer from the Indian Forest Services and convener of the ‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan’ and the Applicant No. 2, Mrs. Madhu Bhaduri, is a former member of Indian Foreign Services.
MoEF had constituted an Expert Committee vide its order dated 13th September, 2013. This Committee was to critically analyze and examine the YRFD Plan of DDA, steps to be taken for further improvement of river bank and also to consider other relevant aspects.
The Expert Committee had opined that 32 Sewage Treatment Plants ought to be installed at minor and major drains of Delhi, in addition to the existing STPs. Once these proposed STPs are established and made operational, the drains are kept clean and it is ensured that sewage does not enter these drains, restoration of Yamuna to its original status is completely an achievable goal, as per the report.
The Tribunal while accepting the reports of the Expert Committees not only critically examined the reports and recommendations but even considered other alternative proposals to make River Yamuna pollution free. After due scrutiny, the Court came to conclude that, “The only viable way to clean River Yamuna and its river beds is to implement these reports without default and demur with the amendments and additions that have been made by us in this judgment. Another advantage of accepting this report is that the infrastructure of existing STP’s would come handy and can be effectively utilized for treatment of the sewage and ensuring removal of pollutants.”
Further, according to the Tribunal, ancillary to this solution recycling and reutilization of the water that would be discharged from these STP’s after treatment of the sewage. “This would not only help in providing usable water for horticulture and industrial purposes for which there is a great shortage in Delhi, but, would also minimize the discharge into River Yamuna, preventing its pollution on the one hand and furthering the cause of its restoration on the other,” it said.
Another facet which called for attention of the Tribunal was that all the natural and manmade drains in Delhi should be kept clean, free of obstruction and dumping of any material or municipal waste, in or around them should be strictly prohibited.
The Tribunal hence directed, “To keep the matters beyond ambiguity and with reference to the report filed on behalf of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the photographs annexed thereto, we direct that no further construction work would be carried on in the G.K-I drain and all the iron rods, especially in the middle section of the drain, shall be entirely removed. The part of the drain which has been covered would be permitted to remain, while it will be ensured that the same is neither occupied by unauthorized occupants nor is used as a platform for dumping, as is even evident from the photographs submitted by the Corporation. No further construction work would be carried out in the Andrews Ganj drain and the entire middle section where iron bars are visible shall be removed.”
The Court repelled the contention that development on the banks of River Yamuna is necessary by raising constructions of the kinds which were contemplated by the DDA and even suggested at the Bar, by referring to the Principle of Sustainable Development.
The entire issue was identified in two segments, which are the primary sources of pollution of River Yamuna. The first, pollution resulting from discharge of industrial and trade effluents; and the second, sewage and domestic discharge and untreated waste entering the River Yamuna through different drains.
According to the Tribunal, industrial units within a particular industrial cluster have to pay these amounts on the ‘Polluter Pays’ Principle, for the pollution already caused by them and even which they are causing presently, as well as to prevent pollution in future on the Precautionary Principle. Major part of such costs, obviously have to be borne by the authorities concerned, let us say 2/3rd, while 1/3rd of the total costs should be borne by the industries.
28 directions were hence issued in order to ensure complete and effective implementation of the recommendations made by the Expert Committees in their reports dated 19th April, 2014 and 13th October, 2014 respectively, as well as, to identify the authorities responsible for compliance for timely preparation and execution of action plans, prepared in terms of the judgment.
Read the NGT judgment here.