25 Oct 2021 5:52 AM GMT
Recently, the Principal Bench Of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) at New Delhi has taken note of the pollution crisis in Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kull, both tributaries of River Jhelum in Jammu & Kashmir. After examining the petitioner's grievances, NGT was convinced that there are prima facie violations of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 in terms of these two...
Recently, the Principal Bench Of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) at New Delhi has taken note of the pollution crisis in Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kull, both tributaries of River Jhelum in Jammu & Kashmir. After examining the petitioner's grievances, NGT was convinced that there are prima facie violations of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 in terms of these two water bodies.
Accordingly, NGT has issued a slew of directions to the concerned authorities for remedial action, including the constitution of a five-member Joint Committee responsible for submitting a factual report to NGT based on site visits and water quality analysis. The tribunal has also underlined the role of the State Pollution Control Board as the nodal agency to ensure compliance and coordination in this matter.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, also laid down the course of action to be undertaken by the Joint Committee composed of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), J & K Pollution Control Committee (J & K PCC), Deputy Commissioners of Srinagar and Budgam and the Director, Urban Local Bodies, J&K:
"…The Committee may look into the water quality in terms of Fecal coliform, quantity of sewage being discharged, solid waste being dumped on the banks and the action plan prepared by the River Rejuvenation Committee (RRC) for J & K constituted as per orders of the Tribunal in OA 673/18. Further action be planned and executed accordingly…"
The application filed by Raja Muzaffar Bhat seeking the intervention of the tribunal alleged that 'the pesticides from Apple Orchards, discharge of untreated sewage and dumping of municipal solid wastes from the area falling under Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Municipal Committee of Budgam' have deteriorated both waterbodies originating from the Pir Panjal Mountains. The submissions specifically made a note of the lack of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in the entire stretch around Doodh Ganga, and the municipal solid wastes dumped unscientifically on the banks of both the river and the stream, that in turn, run the risk of flowing into the water and ultimately into river Jhelum in the rainy season.
The applicant, Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, had previously published a report titled "SMC Converting Doodh Ganga Into A Drain" in 'Greater Kashmir.' In addition, the applicant also filed photographs and copies of letters by State Pollution Control Board to Srinagar Municipal Corporation mentioning dewatering pumping stations with the potential to pollute water. The application before NGT also cited a letter about the inspection report of water samples by the Regional Director, J & K PCC to the Member Secretary, J & K PCC. The applicant, a Srinagar-based activist and founder of the Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement, was represented by Advocate Rahul Choudhary.
While issuing its order, the tribunal relied on the findings enumerated in the letter written by Regional Director, J & K Pollution Control Committee. The Director's letter emphasised that an analysis of water samples from Doodh Ganga indicated the inferior quality of downstream water based on physicochemical parameters. Further, even though the pollution levels in water samples from Mamath Kull fell in line with the permissible limit for 'Class B' (Out Door Bathing Organised) Criteria based on physicochemical parameters, the inspection report had taken note of the enormous solid waste dumps along the banks of Mamath Kull.
In its order dated 18.10.2021, the joint committee constituted by the tribunal has been instructed to submit its report in two months, a copy of which is to be forwarded to the Secretary, Urban Local Bodies. The latter is then required to file an action taken report within one month on the level of compliance with directions issued by the Supreme Court and the tribunal from time to time.
The tribunal has specifically drawn the attention of respondent parties to the Supreme Court directions on setting up 'effluent treatment plants' to prevent water pollution in Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti v. Union of India, and subsequent tribunal orders after the case was transferred to NGT for monitoring the compliance of directions to set up STPs/ETPs/CETPs by local bodies and Industries. NGT Orders in Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and other environmental issues and In re: News item published in "The Hindu" authorized by Shri Jacob Koshy titled "More rivers stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB" (mandating that action plans be prepared by newly constituted four-member River Rejuvenation Committees of respective states for combating pollution across river stretches) are also referred to in the order.
The matter will be next heard on 8th March, 2022.
Case Title: Raja Muzaffar Bhat v. Union of India & Ors
Case No: OA No. 241/2021
Click Here To Read/ Download Order