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NGT raps Centre on Ganga, bars govt from spending on projects

National Green Tribunal on Tuesday stopped the government from spending “a single penny” for Ganga rejuvenation work between Haridwar and Unnao, saying a whopping Rs 20,000 crore was being spent on the entire national project by officials who did not even know about the river.

“Rs 20,000 crore is being spent on a national project without even knowing about the river. Nobody knows anything, this is quite irresponsible. Not a single penny on Ganga rejuvenation would be spent by any of the departments till we pass specific directions. Enough is enough,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The green panel said Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Water Resources both were responsible for cleaning of Ganga and they cannot play “blame game” in discharging their duties, adding that Rs 20,000 crore is being spent on the project by officials without even knowing about the river.

“MoEF and Ministry of Water Resources are taking the NGT for granted. There is not even 1 per cent compliance of our orders. We had asked you about analysis of drains and quantum of effluents besides their quality. Not even a single query has been answered by either MoEF or the Ministry of Water Resources. You are running the whole country, but you don’t have the basic data,” the bench said.

The tribunal was irked over an affidavit filed by a scientist of the Environment Ministry which said that Ministry of Water Resources was the appropriate authority to reply to NGT’s queries on the Ganga.

“You have filed an affidavit signed by a scientist who tells us to seek information from the Ministry of Water Resources. How dare he do this? This is mockery of our order,” the bench, also comprising Justice U D Salvi, said.

The tribunal then directed all concerned officers to be present before it on Wednesday. The counsel appearing for MoEF said Ministry of Water Resources was responsible for providing information to NGT and it was “second in line”. However, the Environment Ministry was always in line of fire and forced to bear the brunt, she added.

During the hearing, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) informed the bench that as per its October 19 directions, an inspection was carried by a committee to collect information on the quantum and quality of waste being released into the river.

The committee comprises Member Secretary of CPCB, Chief Engineer of UP Jal Nigam, senior most chief environmental officer of UP Pollution Control Board and representative from the Ministry of Water Resources. 

The apex pollution monitoring body told the tribunal that there were 33 drains which join Ganga on the stretch from Haridwar to Unnao and a total of 5834 million litres per day sewage was being discharged into the river.

CPCB said that quantity of water was decreasing in the river while sewage was increasing. The major issue is of faecal coliform which makes the water of Ganga unfit for bathing, it said. The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river in different segments -- Gomukh to Haridwar (Phase-I), Haridwar to Unnao (termed as segment B of Phase-I), Unnao to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.

The tribunal had earlier said ill-planning and unscientific approach by the authorities has to led to the chaotic condition faced by the Ganga.

Last year, the tribunal had imposed a complete ban on use of plastic of any kind from Gomukh to Haridwar along the river from February 1 and decided to slap a penalty of Rs 5,000 per day on erring hotels, dharamsalas and ashrams spewing waste.
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