" Petitioner M.C. Mehta told the court that the pollution of the Ganga starts in Gangotri itself on account of tourist traffic and the Uttarakhand government has no funds to set up the STPs and protect the 135-km stretch of the eco-sensitive zone of the Ganga downstream from Gangotri."
New Delhi, Sep 3 - The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the government not to give a bureaucratic answer about its plan to clean up the Ganga river and instead unveil a stage-by-stage timeline for effective monitoring.

Don't give us a vision plan. An artist's view. It may take 200 years to implement, said a bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi. We don't know if it (cleaning Ganga) will happen in our generation.

Can you indicate the stages through which this plan has to move and the time involved in each stage? asked Justice Thakur as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar started reading from a 29-page affidavit starting with the 1985 first Ganga Action Plan.

The first Ganga Action Plan for cleaning the river was initiated by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The court wanted to be enlightened by someone who has a comprehensive view of how the Ganga would be made pollution free, nitty-gritty of the plan, and how the milestones can be achieved and the revered river restored to its pristine glory.

The 2,525-km Ganga, which originates in the Himalayas, is considered the holiest of rivers by Hindus.

Telling Kumar that the government has given a very bureaucratic answer to its query, the court said it wanted to know how much will be achieved in the five years this government will be in office.

During the last hearing Aug 13, the court had sought the status report on the government's action plan to clean the Ganga along with a roadmap.

The court had also sought a report on what the government was doing to clean the river from Gangotri up to Haridwar in the first phase.

Justice Thakur observed: But for nature, it (Ganga) would have been worst. It is nature that is doing a lot of cleaning.

The court told the solicitor general if polluting industries needed to be relocated, the court could help the government with the legal process.

Counsel Vijay Panjwani appearing for the Central Pollution Control Board told the court that all that was said in the Centre's affidavit was at the stage of discussion at the level of bureaucrats and the main problem of the Ganga pollution was the absence of sewerage system coupled with Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP).

Advocating restoration of underground septic tanks, he said that under modern town planning, underground septic tanks have been abandoned.

Giving the instance of the tanning industry in Kanpur, Panjwani said even the underground water has become so much contaminated that there was an increase in cancer cases.

Petitioner M.C. Mehta told the court that the pollution of the Ganga starts in Gangotri itself on account of tourist traffic and the Uttarakhand government has no funds to set up the STPs and protect the 135-km stretch of the eco-sensitive zone of the Ganga downstream from Gangotri.

At this, the court asked Solicitor General Kumar why can't the Centre intervene in the matter and have a feather in its cap for protecting and preserving this 135-km stretch.


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