NGT redefines river Ganga's fate

NGT redefines river Gangas fate

India's top environment court has banned the dumping of waste within 500 metres of a heavily polluted stretch of the Ganges river.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) said the 500km stretch between Haridwar in Uttarakhand state and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh needed urgent action in their 543 page judgement on the long-running Ganga clean up case announcing a slew of measures, fines, and strict deadlines.

Unlike the past when the tribunal dealt with the clean up one stretch at a time, the current judgment deals with measures for the cleanup of the 500 km stretch from Haridwar to Unnao which includes 86 drains that deposit polluted water into the river. (

The NGT is known for passing strict orders to protect the environment, but its rulings are often challenged in High courts and the Supreme Court. The court also does not have an agency to enforce its orders, and it relies on state law enforcement agencies.

The NGT in it's judgement has taken various measures to protect the sacred river of Hindus who worship it as "Mother Ganges" which is badly polluted by industrial waste, sewage and dead bodies, apparently dumped by families who could not afford cremations.

The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river into different segments -- Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to the border of UP, the border of UP to the border of Jharkhand and from the border of Jharkhand to the Bay of Bengal. (

The environment court has ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to move hundreds of tanneries away from the river in Kanpur. It set a deadline of six weeks.The tanneries are a major source of employment for many Muslims in the area, but they heavily pollute the river.

The court also ordered that anybody who dumps waste in the river could be fined up to 50,000 rupees. It warned 14 industrial units operating in Bijnor and Amroha districts on the banks of Ganges with a proposal to slap up to Rs 50,000 fine for the units polluting the water of river Ganges.

A zone of 100 metres from the edge of the river has been declared a no development zone and turned into green belts.

The NGT held that all the industrial units that lie in the catchment area of the Ganga and its tributaries should be prohibited from indiscriminately extracting groundwater. The Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) has been asked to carry out studies and notify areas falling between Haridwar and Unnao as "over exploited, critical, semi-critical and safe zone." (

The Tribunal has directed all concerned authorities to commence the work of setting up of sewage treatment plants and installation of anti-pollution devices within four months and to complete the same within two years.

The setting up of supervisory and implementation committees has also been announced, that have representatives from various ministries, experts and state government officials, that will be responsible for coming up with action plans to implement the measures laid down in the judgment. They will have to submit an action plan within two weeks of the pronouncement of the judgment. (

The final directions to various government agencies ran into around 100 pages.

The tribunal reiterated that in view of the Prime Minister declaring it a national project with a 20,000 crore outlay there is no dearth of funds

The central government has spent over R. 4800 crore to clean Ganga and its tributaries from 1986 till June 30, the environment ministry informed the tribunal during the course of the case. Of the Rs. 6788.78 crore that was allotted, Rs. 1934.30 crore remain unspent.

Politics over the Ganges

A promise to clean the Ganges, India's holiest river, figured prominently in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 2014 election campaign. Soon after coming to power, he created a ministry for water resources, river development and Ganges rejuvenation, indicating that the project would be a priority. The government then announced "Namami Gange," an integrated development project and allocating about $3 billion for it.

Three years later, this campaign is yet to bring about the expected rejuvenation of the river. Naturally, there are mutterings of discontent from environmentalists and the hundreds of millions of Indians who live in the river's catchment area and depend on its increasingly filthy waters.

The former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi too vowed almost 30 years ago to clean it up. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on his Ganga Action Plan, with no discernible results. That said, the cleaning of the river is a collective responsibility that requires the participation and understanding of the public.(

Recently , the NGT criticised government agencies for wasting public money in the name of cleaning the 2,525 km long Ganga. The Tribunal told the centre, "Not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far."

The NGT bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, said, "… Even after spending Rs 7304.64 crores upto March 2017, by the Central Government, State Government and local authorities of the State of UP, the status of river Ganga has not improved in terms of quality or otherwise and it continues to be a serious environmental issue." (

It may look like a case of environmental negligence but this is the ground reality towards the environmental governance in all parts of the world including the US. In a research given by Union of Concerned Scientists and Researchers, it has been found that the way the world is ignorant towards the global warming, by the end of 2100, 670 coastal cities of the world will be on verge of collapse due to the water logging and other problems and around 60 percent of the families living in those cities will be forced to relocate. (

The fate of the judgement is still on hold as the Uttar Pradesh government is yet to make a statement on the NGT's latest ban on waste dumping by the Ganges. (

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