A 100-metre area on either side of Ganga between Haridwar and Unnao (Uttar Pradesh) will be a “no-construction, no-development zone”, the National Green Tribunal ruled on Thursday while ordering a green compensation of Rs 50,000 on anyone dumping waste in the river.
In a 543-page judgment on advocate MC Mehta’s petition on Ganga pollution, the NGT also directed that no dumping or landfill could come up within 500 metres of the river or its tributaries in the Haridwar-Unnao stretch.
The tribunal imposed a complete prohibition on disposing of municipal solid waste, electronic-waste or bio-medical waste on the floodplains or into Ganga or its tributaries in the same stretch.
The bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, also directed that while diverting the water from Haridwar to the Ganga canal or elsewhere, the minimum environmental flow in the main river should not fall below 20% of the average monthly lean season flow.
It also directed UP government to ensure that 86 drains specified in the judgment, as well as other major drains and seweage lines connecting to Ganga must be dredged, cleaned of sludge and the waste removed within six weeks from Thursday. The bench called for a change in strategy, observing that government schemes in the past that have spent hundreds of crores on Ganga clean-up have failed, even as the river continues to become dirtier.
The bench said Ganga needs a plan that is “technically feasible, economically viable and practically executable with tested modern technology, appropriate technical inputs from stakeholders and expert institutions as to performance and planning, free from fundamental errors”.
The NGT said industries could extract groundwater only after seeking permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). The bench also allowed state governments to raise money from the people, if need be, to fund Ganga clean up.
“We also grant liberty and, in fact, it shall be desirable for every local authority to recover environmental conservation charges from the public or a class of people responsible for generating higher sewage,” and directed state governments to identify and demarcate the floodplains on the stretch based on the 25-year flood line.
Meanwhile, according to reports the government has spent over Rs 7,000 crore in two years to cleanse the Ganga which still remains a “serious enviromental issue”.
“There are considerable unutilised funds as of today, besides the huge funds that have been made available under the national project as declared by the Prime Minister wherein Rs 20,000 crore have been allocated for the five years commencing 2015-2020.
“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 conti continues to be a serious environmental issue,” the NGT said.
The order, running into 543 pages, said “till the demarcation of floodplains and identification of permissible and non-permissible activities by the state government of this judgement, we direct that 100 meters from the edge of the river would be treated as no development/construction zone between Haridwar to Unnao in UP.”