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What’s the status of River Ganga Suo moto PIL after 60 hearing?

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The bench of Justice Manoj Kumar GuptaJustice Siddhartha Varma and Justice Ajit Kumar was hearing a public interest litigation(PIL) of 2006 pertaining to the issue of sewage water being directly discharged into the river Ganga. The Union of India has clarified recently to the court that as per the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the State Government and its agencies are responsible for ensuring that untreated effluents are not allowed to be discharged in river.

National Mission for Clean Ganga is constituted under Section 3 of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 vide notification dated 7.10.2016 to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to restore continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate river
Ganga. It is nodal agency for implementation of the provisions of the
said notification.

National Mission for Clean Ganga is constituted under Section 3 of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 vide notification dated 7.10.2016 to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to restore continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate river Ganga. It is nodal agency for implementation of the provisions of the said notification.

On the last date of hearing on October 29, 2021, the court had dealt with various aspects of the matter and had asked the Additional Secretary, Urban Development Department, Govt. of U.P., Lucknow and the Managing Director, U.P. Jal Nigam, Lucknow to file their affidavits on the steps taken to deal with the issue of Untapped Drains/Nalas.

However, against this the officers had responded that they are not responsible for answering as the task was under the purview of Namami Gange Programme and Rural Water Supply Department.

The court had sought a detailed project report from both the officers after it was highlighted before it that in Prayagraj only, there are 74 drains/nalas out of which 48 are untapped and 10 are temporarily tapped. 

However, the Court noted that in compliance of its directions, though the Special Secretary, Department of Urban Development, Govt. of U.P., Lucknow had filed his affidavit, no required details were furnished in it.

In his affidavit, the Special Secretary had suggested that as the work relating to tapping of nalas and construction of STPs, had been assigned in Prayagraj to U.P. Jal Nigam (Rural) so Namami Gange and Rural Water Supply Department should be impleaded in the matter in place of Urban Development Department for seeking necessary information.

The Court also noted that in his affidavit, the Managing Director, U.P. Jal Nigam (Urban) had also averred that as now U.P. Jal Nigam (Rural) has been designated as the nodal agency for execution and maintenance of works relating to abatement of pollution in river Ganga, Yamuna and its tributaries under Namami Gange Programme therefore information be called for from the Principal Secretary, Namami Gange and Rural Water Supply Department and Managing Director, U.P. Jal Nigam (Rural), Lucknow.

To this, the Court held that “Administrative reshuffling or reallocation of work and responsibilities between different departments of the State could not be a valid reason for not furnishing the required information.

The Court stressed that if work and responsibility of any authority is assigned to another department, the direction would be binding on such department also and it was expected that the said department should have come forward to furnish the required information.

However, the Court went on to permit impleadment of Additional Chief Secretary (Awas), Additional Chief Secretary (Nagar Vikas) and Principal Secretary, Namami Gange, U.P. Govt., Lucknow as party respondents to the instant petition and directed the Chief Secretary, U.P. Govt., Lucknow to issue a circular letter to all departments that as and when any information is sought by this Court from the State Government, the head of the department in possession of such information shall be responsible to furnish the information.

The Court stressed that “No laxity on this aspect shall be allowed,” and directed that those heads of concerned departments shall also file their personal affidavits disclosing the information required by the Court’s previous order of October 29.

To ensure compliance, it added that the newly impleaded respondents shall also disclose the time frame within which all remaining drains will be tapped and the steps which have been taken to achieve the said objective.

Importantly, in compliance of the Court’s earlier direction regarding testing of water of two rivers Ganga and Yamuna, seven set of samples were drawn out of which one set was produced before the Court, which was forwarded to the Registry for safe custody and for production before Court as and when required.

The Court also pointed out that the report from IIT, Kanpur of the sample test was still awaited, therefore the Court directed that other two reports from U.P. Pollution Control Board and IIT, BHU shall remain in a sealed cover and shall be opened on the next date along with the report of IIT, Kanpur.

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