New Delhi: The Nation Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to make over 350 river stretches across the country pollution free as it has caused serious threat to safety of water and environment. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the committee would comprise a representative of NITI Aayog; secretaries of Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Environment; the director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Central Pollution Control Board chairman.
The Central Monitoring Committee will also co-ordinate with the River Rejuvenation Committees of the states and oversee the execution of the action plans, taking into account the timelines, budgetary mechanism and other factors. Chief secretaries of states will be the nodal agency at state level. The bench said,
The chief secretaries of the states may undertake review of progress of RRCs by involving concerned secretaries of Department of Urban Development, Environment, Industries, Irrigation and Public Health, Health etc
The tribunal also directed the Ministry of Environment to consider a policy for giving environmental awards to outstanding persons (natural and juristic) and institutions or states and introducing “dis-incentives” for non-compliant states and asked it to frame such scheme before June 30.
First meeting of the Central Monitoring Committee may be held by June 30. The Central Monitoring Committee may consider identifying experts, best practices and models for use of treated water, including plan to supply untreated sewage for a price or otherwise so that the concerned needy party can treat and utilise such water as is reportedly being done at Surat in Gujarat, Nagpur in Maharashtra and Bhilwada in Rajasthan or any other place.
Use of treated water for agriculture or other purpose may save potable surface and ground water, it said. The NGT directed the Central Monitoring Committee to give its report by July 31. The NGT said,
We direct the CPCB and state pollution control boards to launch nationwide programme on biodiversity monitoring and indexing of the rivers to assess the efficacy of river cleaning programme. Further, for safety of human health and maintaining sanctity of the rivers, regular hygienic surveys of the rivers should be carried out with reference to fecal coliform and fecal streptococci, as indicated in the primary water quality criteria for bathing waters.
The tribunal noted that due to use of polluted water in irrigation, there is threat to the health of human beings apart from the aquatic flora and fauna.
It is therefore necessary to have regular hygienic survey of the rivers particularly with reference to pathogenic organisms having impact on human health directly or indirectly. It is also important to note that biological health of the rivers is an important aspect. Much of the important biodiversity is lost on account of severe pollution in the rivers. “There has to be a regular study of the Indian rivers with regard to biological heath and its diversity. We understand that biomapping of rivers and setting biological goals/criteria is part of River Rejuvenation Programmes in some countries. There is threat to the environmental rule of law of the country.
The tribunal’s direction came after taking note of a news item in ‘The Hindu’ under the heading “More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB”.
According to the news item, 351 polluted river stretches have been noted by the CPCB and 117 such stretches are in the states of Assam, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The CPCB has apprised the concerned states of the extent of pollution in the rivers.
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