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:
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:
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.