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Pollution Free Water Fundamental Right, State Bound To Ensure It, Says Supreme Court On Contamination Of Rivers

The Supreme Court directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to submit a report identifying municipalities along the river Yamuna, which have not installed total treatment plants for sewage as per the requirement or have gaps in ensuring that the sewage is not discharged untreated into the river

Pollution Free Water Fundamental Right, State Bound To Ensure It, Says Supreme Court On Contamination Of Rivers
  • Water pollution can seriously harm the aquatic life in water bodies: SC
  • Right to clean environment has been protected under the right to life: SC
  • A welfare state is bound to ensure pollution free water, noted SC

New Delhi: Taking cognisance of contamination of rivers by effluent, the Supreme Court Wednesday (January 13) said pollution-free water is a fundamental right which a welfare state is bound to ensure, and issued notices to the Centre, CPCB and five states including Delhi and Haryana on the issue. The top court, which directed its Registry to register the suo motu case as ‘Remediation of polluted rivers’, said it would first take up the contamination of the Yamuna river and asked Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to submit a report identifying municipalities along it which have not installed total treatment plants for sewage.

The order, widening the scope of judicial scrutiny of contamination of water to rivers across the country, was passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde which was hearing a plea of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) alleging that water containing high pollutants is being released into the Yamuna river from Haryana.

Also Read: CPCB Raises Concern On Pollution In Yamuna; Asks Delhi, Other States For Effective Sewage Treatment

DJB alleged that the water released by neighbouring Haryana into the Yamuna has pollutants including high ammonia content which become carcinogenic after mixing with Chlorine. We find that in addition to the issue raised by present petition, it will be appropriate to take suo motu cognizance with regard to the issue of contamination of rivers by sewage effluents and ensure that the mandate is implemented by municipalities as far as discharge of sewage into rivers is concerned, said the bench which also comprised justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. It said the DJB’s petition related to increased ammonia levels in Yamuna due to discharge of pollutants, but it highlighted an issue of great significance and consequence not only for general public but all living beings dependent upon open surface water.

Let notice be issued to State of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Notice shall also be issued to Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India and Central Board of Pollution Control in addition, it ordered.

Also Read: Detergent In Sewage Responsible For Toxic Foam In Yamuna: Delhi Pollution Body To The Green Panel

The top court directed the CPCB to submit a report identifying municipalities along the river Yamuna, which have not installed total treatment plants for sewage as per the requirement or have gaps in ensuring that the sewage is not discharged untreated into the river. CPCB may also highlight any other source of prominent contamination within the limits of Municipalities. It shall also submit priority-wise list of Municipalities, river stretches adjacent to which have been found to be most polluted, it said.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India, provides for right to life and also right to live with human dignity. The right to clean environment and further, pollution free water has been protected under the broad rubric of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21, it said. The bench referred to constitutional schemes and said a duty is also cast on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife. It is manifestly clear that pollution free water forms the basic right under the Constitutional framework and a welfare state is bound to ensure the same, it said.

Also Read: Yamuna River In Delhi Gets Polluted Again As Lockdown Eases

In the proceedings conducted through video conferencing, the top court also appointed senior advocate Meenakshi Arora as amicus curiae to assist it in hearing the suo motu case. The bench has now posted the case and DJB’s plea for hearing on January 19. The 7-page order said rapid population growth, modern living patterns, wide spheres of human activities and industrialization have resulted in greater demand for fresh water and at the same time, pollution of water resources is increasing steadily.

One of the major causes of water pollution is discharge of non-treated/partially treated municipal waste including sewage effluent of cities into rivers. In and around cities, surface water resources such as rivers, ponds and lakes where effluents are discharged from local bodies are highly polluted. Such discharge of human sewage and other pollutants results into deterioration in chemical, physical and biological properties of water. All these processes lead to degradation of natural environment, it noted.

Also Read: Lockdown Imposed Due To Coronavirus Improves Water Quality Of Ganga, Yamuna

The effect of water pollution on human health is not the only adverse factor and this pollution can seriously harm the aquatic life in water bodies, it said. The order referred to a 2017 judgement and said it was directed that the norms for generating funds, for setting up and operating the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ as well as ‘Sewage Treatment Plants’ shall be finalised on or before January 31, 2017, so as to be implemented from the next financial year of that date.

It was directed that for the purpose of setting up these plants, the state government will prioritize such cities, towns and villages, which discharge industrial pollutants and sewer directly in rivers and water bodies, the order said.

Also Read: River Yamuna Pollution Endangering Lives Of People, Activists Demand Clean-Up

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,90,75,864 and 46,99,816 have died; 19,16,26,474 are active cases and 3,27,49,574 have recovered as on September 21, 2021 at 3:56 am.


3,35,04,534 26,115Cases
3,27,49,574 34,469Recovered
4,45,385 252Deaths
In India, there are 3,35,04,534 confirmed cases including 4,45,385 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,09,575 and 3,27,49,574 have recovered as on September 21, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,24,498 2,583

45,229 1,281

63,40,723 3,836

1,38,546 28


45,24,158 15,692

1,67,578 6,623

43,32,897 22,223

23,683 92


29,68,543 677

14,386 1,025

29,16,530 1,678

37,627 24

Tamil Nadu

26,47,041 1,661

16,984 15

25,94,697 1,623

35,360 23

Andhra Pradesh

20,39,529 839

14,388 311

20,11,063 1,142

14,078 8

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,680 11

194 4

16,86,599 15


West Bengal

15,62,173 524

7,810 96

15,35,699 608

18,664 12


14,38,517 20

379 8

14,13,053 28



10,20,754 510

4,947 96

10,07,666 600

8,141 6


10,05,094 38

297 7

9,91,234 43

13,563 2


9,54,263 9

91 10

9,45,218 19



8,25,737 14

133 3

8,15,522 17


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,402 8

96 0

7,81,789 8



7,70,746 13

340 6

7,60,598 7



7,25,901 7

69 1

7,16,173 8



6,63,662 208

4,991 14

6,54,765 220

3,906 2


6,01,323 59

307 10

5,84,517 38

16,499 31


5,98,423 455

4,984 72

5,87,632 517

5,807 10


3,48,125 9

55 1

3,42,937 10



3,43,393 11

267 6

3,35,736 17


Jammu And Kashmir

3,28,069 128

1,461 32

3,22,191 159

4,417 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,17,140 234

1,616 54

2,11,871 177

3,653 3


1,75,583 85

810 36

1,71,478 48

3,295 1


1,25,517 54

867 56

1,22,818 109

1,832 1


1,18,673 178

2,183 6

1,14,658 183

1,832 1


83,905 51

346 10

82,750 40

809 1


81,460 1,731

15,140 1,008

66,057 721

263 2


79,667 174

1,896 5

76,391 168

1,380 1


65,188 7

41 4

64,329 3


Arunachal Pradesh

54,126 56

410 12

53,444 67

272 1


30,971 16

654 59

29,937 74

380 1


30,907 43

467 17

29,786 59

654 1


20,737 7

138 4

20,392 3


Dadra And Nagar Haveli


0 1

10,666 1



10,359 3

8 3



Andaman And Nicobar Islands


13 0



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