Industrial, Sewage Pollution Rampant In UP, No Meaningful Action Being Taken: NGT Calls For Remedial Measures To Control Hindon River Pollution
The principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), Justice Sudhir Agarwal (Judicial Member), and Dr. Senthil Vel (Expert Member), on Friday a joint committee, headed by the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, to take immediate remedial action to control pollution in the Hindon river.
The committee has also been ordered to deploy field monitoring teams to accurately assess the ground-level situation.
The order was passed on an application raising concerns about the failure of administrative authorities and regulatory bodies to stop and deal with the pollution of the Hindon river.
The applicant has said that the Hindon River is a crucial source of water for residential, agricultural, and industrial purposes in seven districts and supports the rural population. However, the river is heavily polluted due to unregulated waste dumping and the state authorities have failed to address this issue, the applicant has alleged.
It was also highlighted that the "Action Plan for restoration of the polluted stretch of the Hindon River from Saharanpur District to Ghaziabad District" was prepared by the UP authorities. However, it exists only on paper, and no significant action has been taken at the ground level, the NGT was told. The applicant said that as a result, the river remains heavily polluted throughout its entire length, especially in Ghaziabad District and Gautam Budh Nagar.
The applicant submitted that, despite clear and categorical directions given earlier, the authorities have failed to take any meaningful action.
In January 2023, a joint committee comprising the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), UP Jal Nigam, MoEF&CC, NMCG, and a representative of the Principal Secretary, Department of Irrigation submitted a report. The report stated that 310 grossly polluting industries (GPIs) are discharging their effluent into the river, while Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are inadequate and not meeting the norms. As a result, untreated sewage is being discharged into the river, the NGT was informed.
The NGT said the compliance report submitted by the committee lacks basic information, such as the quantity of effluents being discharged through drains and their compliance with standards. Additionally, the report does not mention several critical aspects, including compliance with consent conditions, validity, and the variables in the environmental compensation imposed, it noted
"The report is thus casual without any plan of action. UPPCB being the regulator should have given the responsible report which has not been done," it observed.
The bench also noted that the report fails to mention about progress made in critical areas such as bio-remediation, completion of piped water supply in remaining villages, regulation of groundwater, and demarcation of flood plain zones (FPZ). These issues were originally outlined in the Hindon River Action Plan and the previous order dated 02.02.2021 in Doaba Paryavaran Samiti v. State of U.P & Ors. (application No. 231/2014).
"The report also mentions that a project has been prepared for water quality monitoring to remedy the situation. Water quality data for the River Hindon for the month of January, 2023 on the website of UPPCB indicates that the water quality falls in the category of ‘D’ and ‘E’ with high BOD of 10-60 mg/l which is unsatisfactory state of affairs," it observed.
Considering the application and material available on record, the NGT said,
“It is patent that there is rampant unregulated industrial and sewage pollution and neglect by the authorities in the State of UP. No meaningful action is being taken errant industries and local bodies. Neither prosecution nor erring industries have been closed nor adequate compensation to meet the cost of restoration with deterrent element considering financial capacity of the industries has been assessed and recovered.”
The NGT said there has been a violation of the Supreme Court judgment in the Paryavaran Suraksha case and the directions of the Tribunal in various cases, including Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr v UOI.
"Though the report is incomplete in all respects, it shows large scale non compliances.” it added.
In the light of the situation, NGT directed that joint Committee headed by Chief Secretary, UP with the involvement of MoEF&CC, NMCG, CPCB, State PCB, concerned District Magistrates and concerned Commissioners/Superintendents of Police, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment and ACS/Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department, State Irrigation and Flood Control, UP to take remedial action for control of pollution of Hindon without further delay and also to deploy field monitoring teams to assess the real ground situation.
The tribunal further explained that remedial action would involve assessing compensation against erring industries for past violations equal to 10% of their turnover, but not lower than the assessed cost of restoration.
It would also involve the closure of units that continue to cause pollution, prosecution of the owners of these industries under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, following due process of law.
"The State itself is liable to pay compensation for discharge of untreated sewage @ ₹Two Crore per MLD on the pattern of order of this Tribunal dated 03.08.2022 in O.A No. 1002/2018, Abhisht Kusum Gupta v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. and in recent orders passed in respect of 28 States/UTs in O.A. 606/2018," the bench said.
It further said that erring industrial units may be put to notice of the proceedings by the State PCB for their response, if any, before the Tribunal.
"An action taken report complete in all aspects be filed before this Tribunal on or before 30.06.2023," the bench said.
Case-Abhisht Kusum Gupta v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.