The principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered all the states, including Goa, and Union territories (UTs) in the country to prepare an action plan for making all the polluted river stretches fit at least for bathing purpose, and asked them to submit reports for consideration on December 19.
The three-member bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed that four-member committee, comprising director of environment, director of urban development, director of industries and member secretary of state pollution control board be constituted for preparing and executing the action plan.
The committee may be called ‘River Rejuvenation Committee’ (RRC), the NGT has suggested.
“The action plan will include components like identification of polluting sources, including functioning or status of sewage treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, solid waste management and processing facilities, quantification and characterisation of sewage generated in the catchment area of the polluted river stretch,” the bench said.
The court has noted the findings of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which is a statutory body under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, that stated that the number of polluted stretches in India’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 in the last two years. The water quality data for the years 2016-2017 has been analysed, and locations exceeding the water quality criteria have been identified as polluted locations, with respect to risk.
The CPCB has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers, and are classified depending on BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) levels in five priority classes.
BOD greater than or equal to 30milligram/litre (mg/litre) is termed as ‘Priority I’, BOD between 20 and 30 mg/l is ‘Priority II’, BOD between 10 and 20mg/litre is ‘Priority III’, BOD between 6 and 10 mg/litre is ‘Priority IV’ while that between 3.1 and 6 mg/litre is ‘Priority V’.
The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3mg/litre an indicator of a healthy river. A high BOD in water means that water has a great amount of micro-organisms, mainly aerobic bacteria. This fact is very common in areas contaminated with wastewater.
The CPCB in its 2018 report has listed 11 rivers from the state to be polluted for exceeding water quality criteria — River Sal – Khareband to Mobor stretch with a BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) between 4.2 – 16.8 mg/litre is classified as Priority III, whereas the River Mandovi – Marcela to Volvoi with BOD 3.3- 6.2mg/litre and River Talpona flowing along Canacona 6.8 mg/litre are classified as Priority IV rivers.
The CPCB also listed eight stretches as ‘Priority V’ rivers having BOD between 3 and 6 mg/litre: the River Assonora — Assonora to Sirsaim with 3.3 mg/litre, River Bicholim — Bicholim to Curchirem 4.8mg/litre, River Chapora from Pernem to Morjim 3.5- 5.2 mg/litre, River Khandepar from Ponda to Opa 3.4mg/litre, River Sinquerim along Candolim 3.6mg/litre, River Tiracol 3.9mg/litre, River Valvant between Sankhali and Bicholim to Poriem 4.3mg/litre, River Zuari- Curchorem to Madkai 3.2- 5.1mg/litre.
The tribunal had taken suo motu cognisance of a report that had appeared in national dailies on the increase in polluted river stretches in the country.
The court also acknowledged the fact that the state pollution control boards have not been able to take adequate steps for keeping the standard of water within the prescribed
The order was passed on September 20 directing every state to prepare an action plan within two months, and make all the polluted river stretches fit at least for bathing purposes (i.e BOD – 3 mg/litre and FC – 500 MPN/100ml) within six months from the date of finalisation of the action plan.