Hyderabad: The National Green Tribunal has directed all state governments, including Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to prepare action plans for cleaning up polluted river stretches so that the water is fit at least for bathing purposes. The Chief Secretaries of the states will be personally accountable for failure to formulate the action plan, the NGT said.
The NGT bench headed by Justice A K Goel while dealing with a suo moto case regarding polluted rivers in the country, pointed out that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) considers a Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) of less than 3mg/L the indicator of a healthy river, but the Godavari, Krishna, Nagavali, Kundu, Tungabhadra, Kinnersani, Musi and Manjeera rivers flowing through AP and Telangana and the Karakavagu, Maner and Nakkavagu streams have more than 3mgL BOD.
The bench directed that the action plans be prepared by a four-member committee comprising, Director, Environment, Director, Urban Development., Director, Industries and Member Secretary of the State Pollution Control Board of the concerned states and this committee will also be the Monitoring Committee for execution of the action plan.
The bench directed that the committee may be called ‘River Rejuvenation Committee’ (RRC) and it will function under the overall supervision and coordination of the Principal Secretaries, Environment, of the states.
The NGT said that the action plan must include components such as identification of polluting sources, including functioning/status of sewage treatment plants/ETPs/CETP and solid waste management and processing facilities, quantification and characterisation of solid waste, trade and sewage generated in the catchment area of the polluted river.
The NGT told the Chief Secretaries of both states that the action plan will address issues relating to ground water extraction, adopting good irrigation practices, protection and management of Flood Plain Zones (FPZ), rain water harvesting, ground water charging, maintaining minimum environmental flow of river and plantation on both sides of the river.
The Tribunal directed that the action plan should have speedy, definite and specific timelines for execution of steps. Provision may be made to pool the resources, utilising funds from state budgets, local bodies, the State Pollution Control Board/Committee and out of central schemes.
The bench directed setting up of a Special Environment Surveillance Task Force, comprising nominees of District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, Regional Officer of State Pollution Control Board and one person to be nominated by the District Judge in his capacity as Chairman of Legal Services Authority on the pattern of direction of this Tribunal dated August 7, 2018 in another suo motto case. on the lines of the Tribunal’s directive in another suo moto case heard on August 7, 2018. The Task Force will also ensure that no illegal mining takes place in river beds of such polluted stretches. The RRC will have a website inviting public participation from educational institutions, religious institutions and commercial establishments, and achievements and failures may also be published on such website.
While directing that the RRS shall send progress reports by e-mail to the NGT before December 15, 2018, the bench said: “Needless to say, that order of National Green Tribunal is binding as a decree of Court and non-compliance is actionable by way of punitive action including prosecution, in terms of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.”