NGT Imposes ₹ 50 Crores Penalty On Punjab Government For Pollution of Sutlej & Beas Rivers [Read Order]

NGT Imposes ₹ 50 Crores Penalty On Punjab Government For Pollution of Sutlej & Beas Rivers [Read Order]

The National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty of Rupees 50 crores on the Punjab Government for failing to take effective steps to control pollution of rivers Sutlej and Beas.

The order was passed by NGT Principal Bench at New Delhi headed by Justice A K Goel, acting on an application filed by one  Shobha Singh in 2014. The application raised the issue of pollution of rivers Sutlej and Beas in Jalandhar and Ludhiana Districts on account of discharge of untreated pollutants - industrial as well as municipal.

On testing the water samples, it was found that Total Dissolved Solid (TDS), Accumulation of Chromium, Nickel, Zinc and pesticides were high in the sediment of Chitti Bein. Traces of metals like Chromium, Nickel and Zinc were detected in soil samples of the fields irrigated by the waters of the Bein. There was high level of inorganic and organic pollution in both the east Bein and the Kala Sanghia drain, as per the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) reports.

The Tribunal noted that  that there are 1332 hazardous waste generating industries as well as 17 categories of industries highly polluting. As a result of such pollution, eight districts of Rajasthan were found to be adversely affected, apart from Ludhiana and Jalandhar Districts of State ofPunjab. The industries and local bodies failed to install and make functional the requisite treatment plants. 35 municipalCouncils/Nagar Panchayats are discharging sewage with heavy metal and BOD loads in the said river.

The Tribunal constituted a Monitoring Committee to study the situation. The Committee took  stock of the situation and noted lack of sewage system, non-availability of STPs and lack of appropriate technology and capacity, lack of waste water treatment, lack of skilled man power, non-sustainable approach in designing of sewage management projects.

It was noted that sludge generated from Sewage Treatment Plants(STPs) was not being pretreated, STPs were not having stand-by arrangement during maintenance, STPs are bye-passing the untreated sewage into drains and do not have adequate capacity, industrial effluents are mixed up with the domestic sewage resulting in damage to the STPs.

On the basis of the Committee report, the Tribunal held :

"There is no reason not to accept the findings in the report to the effect that huge damage has been caused to the environment particularly the water bodies as well to the inhabitants. The Committee has representatives from all concerned authorities. Even on a conservative estimate, learned counsel for the parties suggest and we find no reason to disagree that the damage in monetary terms will not be less than Rs. 50 crores"

Applying the 'polluter pays' principal, the NGT bench, which also consists of Judicial Member S P Wangdi and Expert Member Dr. Nagin Danda, directed tate of Punjab  to deposit a sum of Rs. 50 crores with the Central Pollution Control Board within one month for being spent on restoration of the environment as well for relief to the victims.

Read Order