NGT Takes Suo Motu Cognizance Of News Report; Devises Action Plan For Polluted River Stretches Across India [Read Order]

NGT Takes Suo Motu Cognizance Of News Report; Devises Action Plan For Polluted River Stretches Across India [Read Order]

Taking suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report about how more river stretches are now critically polluted as per the record of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the National Green Tribunal has devised a model action plan, divided river stretches into “priorities” depending upon the extent of pollution and has directed all states and union territories to prepare action plans within two months to bring all polluted river stretches to be fit for at least bathing.

A bench of NGT Chairperson AK Goel, Justice SP Wangdi and Dr Nagin Nanda noted that as per the report, 351 polluted river stretches have been noted by the CPCB. Of these, 117 such stretches are in Assam, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

According to the news item, most polluted stretches are from Powai to Dharavi.

The tribunal said the action plans may be prepared by a four-member committee comprising, director, Environment; director, Urban Development; director, Industries; and member secretary, State Pollution Control Board of concerned State, and this committee may be called “River Rejuvenation Committee’’ (RRC).

The RRC, it said, may recover the cost of rejuvenation from the polluter while also considering voluntary donations, CSR funds and private participation.

The bench has issued the following directions:



  1. i)All States and Union Territories are directed to prepare action plans within two months for bringing all the polluted river stretches to be fit at least for bathing purposes (i.e., BOD ˂ 3 mg/L and FC ˂ 500 MPN/100 ml) within six months from the date of finalisation of the action plans.

  2. ii)The action plans may be prepared by four-member Committee comprising, Director, Environment, Director, Urban Development., Director, Industries, Member Secretary, State Pollution Control Board of concerned State. This Committee will also be the Monitoring Committee for execution of the action plan. The Committee may be called ‘’River Rejuvenation Committee’’ (RRC). The RRC will function under the overall supervision and coordination of Principal Secretary, Environment of the concerned State/Union Territory

  3. The action plan will include components like identification of polluting sources including the functioning/ status of STPs/ETPs/CETP and solid waste management and processing facilities, quantification and characterisation of solid waste, trade and sewage generated in the catchment area of polluted river stretch. The action plan will address issues relating to; groundwater extraction, adopting good irrigation practices, protection and management of Flood Plain Zones (FPZ), rainwater harvesting, groundwater charging, maintaining the minimum environmental flow of river and plantation on both sides of the river. Setting up of biodiversity parks on flood plains by removing encroachment shall also be considered as an important component for river rejuvenation. The action plan should focus on proper interception and diversion of sewage carrying drains to the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and emphasis should be on utilization of treated sewage so as to minimize extraction of ground or surface water.
    The action plan should have speedy, definite or specific timelines for execution of steps. Provision may be made to pool the resources, utilizing funds from State budgets, local bodies, State Pollution Control Board/ Committee and out of Central Schemes.

  4. The Action Plans may be subjected to a random scrutiny by a task team of the CPCB.

  5. The Chief Secretaries of the State and Administrators/ Advisors to Administrators of the Union Territories will be personally accountable for failure to formulate an action plan, as directed.

  6. All States and Union Territories are required to send a copy of Action Plan to CPCB especially w.r.t. Priority I & Priority II stretches for approval.

  7. The States and the Union Territories concern are directed to set up Special Environment Surveillance Task Force, comprising nominees of District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, Regional Officer of State Pollution Control Board and one person to be nominated by District Judge in his capacity as Chairman of Legal Services Authority on the pattern of direction of this Tribunal dated 07.08.2018, in case titled “
    Stench Grips Mansa’s Sacred Ghaggar River”
    (suo motu case).

  8. The Task Force will also ensure that no illegal mining takes place in river beds of such polluted stretches.

  9. The RRC will have a website inviting public participation from educational institutions, religious institutions and commercial establishments. Achievement and failure may also be published on such a website. The Committee may consider suitably rewarding those contributing significantly to the success of the project.

  10. The RRCs will have the authority to recover the cost of rejuvenation in Polluter Pays Principle from those who may be responsible for the pollution, to the extent found necessary. In this regard, the principle laid down by this Tribunal in order dated 13.07.2017 in O.A No. 200 of 2014, M.C Mehta Vs. U.O.I will apply. Voluntary donations, CSR contribution, voluntary services and private participation may be considered in consultation with the RRC.


It is to be noted that all members of NGT had in an in-chamber meeting reviewed how river rejuvenation can be achieved at the earliest to make water level at least fit for bathing. It discussed the concern with various states and the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Niti Aayog, the National Mission for Clean Ganga etc.

While stressing on river action plans to be in place, the Tribunal said such plans are designed for control of pollution and to restore the water quality of the rivers and that “river action plans although have not improved the quality of the water resources, however in absence of such plans, the quality of aquatic resources would have been further deteriorated”.

The bench took river Hindon as a model for the preparation of action plan for restoration of water quality.

The salient features of the action plan are:



  1. Execution of field surveys to assess pollution load generated by industries and sewage generated in a city or town discharging sewage and trade effluent into river Hindon and its tributaries.

  2. Collating water quality monitoring data of Hindon and its tributaries and assigning the class as per primary water quality criteria.

  3. Water quality assessment of river in context of sewage/industrial drain outfalls with dilution and distance factors.

  4. Laying time-limes for regulating industrial pollution control by ensuring consent compliance and closing the defaulting industries till they comply with the norms stipulated to them.

  5. Setting up of STPs in towns located in the river catchment and emphasis on utilization of treated sewage.

  6. Adopting water conservation practices, groundwater regulation, floodplain zone management and maintaining environmental flow.


Besides, the polluted river stretches have been divided into five priority categories i.e., I, II, III, IV and V depending upon the level of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). BOD greater than or equal to 30mg/L is termed as ‘Priority I’, while that between 3.1 and 6 mg/L is ‘Priority V’. The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3mg/L an indicator of a healthy river.

Stressing on absolute necessity of an action plan to restore polluted stretches of rivers, the Tribunal gave an outline of action plan and what it must cover – A) Source control -- includes industrial pollution control and treatment and disposal of domestic sewage; B) Channelization, treatment, utilisation and disposal of treated domestic sewage, C) River catchment/Basin Management-Controlled ground water extraction and periodic quality assessment, D) regulating activities in floodplain zone; issues relating to environmental/ ecological flow, and E) Such other issues which may be found relevant for restoring water quality to the prescribed standards.

Read the Order Here