Acknowledging that the two-phased Ganga Action, which started in 1985, has failed to have the desired effect in checking river pollution, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the National Ganga River Basin Authority, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recently decided that by 2020 no untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluents would be allowed to flow into the Ganga. The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister last month. Other members of the committee include the chief ministers of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and the Union Ministers of Finance, Environment and Forests, Urban Development, Water Resources, Power, Science and Technology.
A detailed 53-page affidavit submitted to the Bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia, Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar by Additional Solicitor General Mohan Jain also says that a comprehensive river basin management plan for the Ganga is being prepared by a consortium of seven IITs. The consortium would complete the job in 18 months, the affidavit filed during hearing of a PIL filed by environmental activist M C Mehta says.
The Centre has already approved projects worth Rs 1,400 crore for development of sewerage network, sewerage treatment plants, pumping stations, electric crematoria on the banks of the Ganga in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
Jain informed the Bench that the Centre has also asked state governments to constitute ‘city-level monitoring committees’ to check flow of pollutants into the holy river.
The affidavit says that though operation and maintenance of assets created under the river action plans is the responsibility of the respective state government, in most cases states have failed to effectively discharge this duty. In this regard, the Centre has sought a direction to the state governments to provide dedicated power supply to sewerage treatment plants and pumping stations so that they can operate round-the-clock.
The affidavit filed the Ministry of Environment and Forests also says that due to failure of courts to expeditiously decide courts cases, including PILs, regarding land acquisition and removal of encroachment room land meant for Ganga Action Plan-related projects, there are cost and time over-runs.