8 Yrs And On: Dumping Along River Kali Costs 22 Lives, 200 Ailing; NGT Calls For Ground Report [Read Order]
Eight years of unmindful, unscientific and unlawful garbage dumping on highly productive land along river Kali in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district is said to have claimed 22 human lives and made the local population in nearby villages generally unwell with recurrent diarrhoea, asthma, skin disorders, leprosy and other deadly diseases.
The concerns of the villagers from around the river were brought before the National Green Tribunal by Naveen Kumar, a community worker, and Vishal Kumar, a farmer from Meerut's Ganwri village where the dumping site is located.
Their counsel advocate Akash Vashishtha informed the NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice AK Goel that unscientific dumping of solid waste is taking place in village Ganwri on the banks of river Kali which is creating health issues. He claimed that 22 deaths have taken place and 200 people taken ill.
He also submitted how the committees appointed by the tribunal itself to oversee implementation of its directions concerning solid waste management have failed to do their jobs and remained unapproachable forcing the petitioners to come to the tribunal.
At this, the NGT ordered that the "District Magistrate, Meerut and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) furnish a factual and action taken report to this Tribunal within one month from the date of receipt of copy of this order by e-mail at email@example.com. The UPPCB will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance".
Vashishtha submitted that such dumping, as in the present case, was "forbidden under the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, the Almitra Patel (Almitra H Patel v UoI in which the NGT had in December, 2016 directed against unscientific dumping of solid waste, mandatory buffer zone around landfill sites etc) and the MC Mehta judgments of the Tribunal".
He informed that the Meerut Municipal Corporation was dumping hundreds of tons of unsegregated waste collected from the Meerut city daily in Ganwri village after digging up to 15-18 feet on the agricultural land. Every day, 20-25 dumpers and trolleys of the corporation travel to and fro the village dumping the waste which has completely altered the nature of the land from highly fertile farmland to a degraded wasteland.
Dumping started 8 yrs ago, now stench reaches far and wide
The petitioners said the corporation started dumping waste in small quantities at the said location eight years ago, subsequently raising the volume of garbage until the situation assumed alarming proportions and the agricultural land became a huge dump of garbage.
What makes it worse is the fact that the site of dumping is situated barely 150 metres from three schools and about 400 metres from a temple.
"Since the site where the solid and other obnoxious waste is being dumped is situated right on the Kali River, it is directly abetting toxicity and pollution in the river, thereby causing ground water to be polluted.
"The contamination of ground water in the area, together with the communicable diseases resulting from the wastes and the stench thereof has caused as many as 22 deaths in the villages. Over 200 people are suffering from different kinds of ailments like diarrhoea, malaria, leprosy, asthma and other brain and skin disorders," they said.
Vashishtha said the extent of waste dumping is so gigantic that its stench has spread all over in surrounding villages and has affected the people of villages such as Bhawanpur, Gaispur, Syal, Khwajapur, Abdullahpur, Pachpera, Rali Chauhan and Chilaura.
That is not all.
Now the Corporation and the District Magistrate, the petitioners said, were in the process of setting up a waste-processing plant in Ganwri village on private lands acquired by them in 2011 right on the river in violation of the conditions laid down in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and without complying with the essential requirements of Consents to Establish and Operate under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
NGT-constituted panels not approachable
The instant petition also shows how the various committees constituted by the NGT to get its order implemented at the ground level function.
With regard to solid waste management, the NGT had in August, 2018 formed three committees -- apex monitoring committee, regional monitoring committees and state-level committees -- to oversee the steps to be taken to give effect to its directions, including proper implementation of the Solid Waste Management Rules.
The apex monitoring committee was to be headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge and have an office in Delhi. It had to coordinate with all regional monitoring committees which were tasked with ensuring proper implementation of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 by which dumping along rivers is strictly prohibited.
Vashishta, however, told the bench that these committees had failed to respond in the instant case making them run from pillar to post.
He said he had sent a representation to the Principal Secretary, Department of Urban Development/ Member Secretary of the Monitoring Committee but in vain as he could not be contacted despite repeated efforts and numerous phone calls to his office, which were answered by his private secretary, were easily ignored on one pretext or the other.
"No Control Room meant for redressal of grievances at the local level that was to be set up in terms of the order dated 20-08-18, of this Hon'ble Tribunal has, so far, been set up by Respondent No. 2 (Meerut Municipal Corporation), thereby rendering the Applicants helpless and run from pillar to post.
'…the Apex Monitoring Committee constituted vide the same order has also submitted false information before this Hon'ble Tribunal that it has set up its office at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi when no office of any kind has, so far, been set up at the said premises, thereby leaving no option to the Applicants to submit any complaint or grievance," informed the petitioner.
Read the Order Here