Presented with photographs of rampant dumping of all kinds of wastes in Uttarakhand, especially its hills and high-altitude pilgrim centers, the National Green Tribunal has asked the State to verify the claims made in the photographs and furnish a report.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel has directed the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand to verify the claims made by NGO Friends and former Chairman of International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Vienna, Dr. Ajay Singh Rawat.
In their petition moved through advocate and environmental activist Akash Vashishtha, the petitioners rued the ways in which rampant illegal dumping of waste was polluting airs, springs, rivers, groundwater and overall environment of the State and presented several photographs before it to support its claim.
"The entire hills of the state were in distress because of unrestrained dumping everywhere and no disposal thereof. The garbage is thrown, gets accumulated and is then set on fire. The biggest problem creators are the hotels, resorts and restaurants. Tourists are plundering the hills like anything," Senior Advocate Rajiv Dutta, told the bench.
Since the bench is already seized of the subject in another petition, it ordered thus, "…let the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand have the facts verified from the concerned Departments, particularly the Forest and Irrigation Departments with reference to the photographs and furnish a report in the said matter".
The petition states that, "Across the state, in every town or place, dumping of wastes has become a regular practice and heaps of wastes have become a common sight. Most of this waste is generated by tourists staying in hotels, resorts and rest- houses, followed by restaurants and local population (households). The magnitude of the issue is so enormous that even high-altitude pilgrim centres, such as Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri and Gaumukh are desecrated with wastes of all sorts. The water sources in these high altitudes have also become highly polluted.
"Such disposal and dumping of plastics, polythene, liquor bottles made of glass, aluminium cans, medical waste, animal flesh and carcass etc. is causing tremendous and irreparable harm to the eco-fragile areas of Uttarakhand. The illegal waste dumping is posing one of the biggest threats to the peaks and glaciers in the state, which are the direct source of water, origins of several streams and rivers and are the lifeline of the country".
"In some of the shocking instances, a leopard was found chewing wastes near the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Garbage has also been dumped at the source of Laxman Ganga in Hemkund Sahib, at an altitude of 14,202 feet. Further, in Barahat, Uttarkashi, garbage brought in 30 trucks was dumped in the very sacred Bhagirathi River by the municipality administration. In Rudraprayag, a small Himalayan town, the municipality has been illegally dumping the solid waste in the Alaknanda River and areas close to the river," it says.
It is to be noted that a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2018 revealed that Uttarakhand is the worst-performing state in the country in terms of processing solid waste as it produces 1406 tonnes of waste every day but processes zero percent of it.