In view of continuing failure to have a statutory mechanism in place under the Water Act to prevent water pollution, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) to develop National River Rejuvenation Mechanism (NRRM) for control of pollution and rejuvenation of all polluted river stretches in the country.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that the process of rejuvenation of rivers need not be confined to only 351 stretches but may be applicable to all small, medium and major polluted rivers, including those that have dried up.
NGT said that the Empowered Task Force on river Ganga headed by Union Minister of Jal Shakti may exercise all powers and discharge all functions in relation to all the polluted river stretches in the same manner as the functions entrusted to it under the River Ganga 2016 order for control of pollution and rejuvenation of polluted river stretches.
The tribunal observed that satisfactory results are not visible on account of the failure of enforcement and monitoring, as found by the central monitoring committee.
It directed the chief secretaries of all states/UTs and PCBs/PCCs to work in mission mode for strict compliance of timelines for commencing new projects, completing ongoing projects and adopting interim phyto/bio-remediation measures, failing which compensation in terms of earlier orders be deposited with the MoJS, to be utilised in the respective states as per action plan to be approved by the NRRM.
NGT asked to start collecting compensation for the failure to commence or complete the projects for setting up of sewage treatment equipments or taking steps for interim remediation measures.
“This is necessary for accountability. The compensation so assessed may be deposited in a separate account to be used for rejuvenation of the polluted river stretches,” the order reads.
NGT noted that there has been no accountability fixed for serious failures of statutory mechanism to control river pollution, hence it made it clear that Chief Secretaries are accountable for failure to comply with the direction for payment of compensation under sections 25, 26, 28 and 30 of the NGT Act, 2010 and the MoJS or any other aggrieved person will be free to take remedies by way of initiating prosecution or execution.
“Other steps in terms of action plans for abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of rivers, including preventing discharge or dumping of liquid and solid waste, maintaining e-flow, protecting floodplains, using treated sewage for secondary purposes, developing biodiversity parks, protecting water bodies, regulating ground water extraction, water conservation, maintaining water quality etc be taken effectively,” the order reads.
The chief secretaries of all states/UTs may personally monitor progress at least once every month and the NRRM every quarter, it said.
While reiterating its order to the river rejuvenation committees of each state to perform the obligations, NGT said that action plans have been prepared for remediation of all the 351 identified polluted river stretches. Gaps have been identified for ETPs/CETPs/STPs (including modular STPs wherever necessary). Timelines are clear.