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‘Dirty’ Ganga invites SC wrath

The apex court sought fresh response of the government about the steps undertaken by it to implement the stage-wise projects for cleaning the Ganga in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal in six weeks.

“Now the point is, it is going on for last 30 years. You (Centre) tell us as to what is the verifiable progress in this regard,” a bench headed by Justice TS Thakur said when the counsel for the Centre submitted that “things are happening.” “118 more towns have been identified by this government.

Things have started moving. They (municipalities and other concerned authorities) have been told to wake up,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before the bench that also comprised justices RK Agrawal and Adarsh Kumar Goel. Meanwhile the mysterious recovery of nearly 100 bodies from river Ganga prompted the Centre to ask the Uttar Pradesh government to explain how  this was happening. While about 30 bodies were recovered on Tuesday, 50 more were found on Wednesday from Ganga in Safipur area of Unnao district.

So far 80 bodies have been fished out from the river near Pariyar ghat, District Magistrate Saumya Agarwal said. She said the exact number of the recoveries could not be confirmed as bodies were still being recovered. Unofficially, the body count is said to be more than 100.

Union Minister for Water Resources and Ganga Cleaning Uma Bharati said, “We have also received information through the media, party workers and ministry officials over the issue.” She said she had spoken to the District Magistrate of Unnao and “I have also sought information from the Uttar Pradesh Government on how it happened.” Bharti told a tv channel, “You all expect us to clean Ganga in six months, something that could not be accomplished in years . This is unfair. The clean-up will take time. We will never play with the sentiments of people or  nature. We have done our preparations and in some years you will get  a cleaner Ganga.”

The bench, which had earlier asked the Centre to come out with a “stage-wise plan” to clean the river, sought additional specific response on 70 sewage treatment plants (STPs), which are at various stages, likely to come up in the five Ganga basin states.

“If you have financial problem, we can’t solve. All that is required is that you go ahead with the projects and if there is any bottleneck, you can come before us. Don’t take it (PIL) as an adversarial litigation. Do you want to say that this has to be done during this government or in the next term of the government,” it asked. “We propose to conclude it by 2018,” the SG replied.

The bench, in its order, asked the government to apprise it of the fresh status of the 15 proposed STPs whose bidding process were to be concluded and said “if there was delay in the bidding process, then the reasons be also indicated.” It further said the report, which is likely to be filed by the consortium of IITs on Ganga River basin management by January end, should be submitted too. The bench also noted the submission of the Solicitor General that the consortium of seven IITs was expected to address the issue relating to a 100 km-long eco-sensitive zone ranging from Gomukh to Uttarkashi and listed the PIL for hearing after six weeks.
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