Ganga rejuvenation: NGT bans plastic from Gomukh to Haridwar

PTI New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on December 10, 2015

The NGT passed a slew of directions to keep the river pollution free. File Photo   -  The Hindu

There will be a complete ban on use of plastic of any kind from Gomukh to Haridwar along Ganga with effect from February 1, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed today while slapping a penalty of Rs 5,000 per day on erring hotels, dharamshalas and ashrams spewing waste into the river.

The Tribunal passed a slew of directions to keep the river pollution free.

It held that if any hotel, dharamshala or ashram releases their domestic waste and sewage into Ganga or its tributaries then “it shall be liable to pay environmental compensation for causing pollution of the river at the rate of Rs 5,000 per day”.

The green panel divided the cleaning work of Ganga into different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.

Besides the plastic ban, the Tribunal also prohibited throwing of any municipal waste, construction and demolition wastes into Ganga and its tributaries while announcing that violators will have to pay an environmental compensation at the rate of Rs 5,000 per incident.

“There shall be complete prohibition on use of plastic i.e plastic carry bags/plastic plates, glasses, spoons, packages and allied items in all cities/towns falling on the river Ganga and its tributaries in Segment A Phase-1 (Gomukh to Haridwar).

“Under no circumstances, plastic carry bags of any thickness whatsoever would be permitted. The procurement, storing and sale of such plastic bags, plates, glasses, spoons etc are hereby prohibited, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said adding, “these restrictions would become operative with effect from February 1, 2016.”

The Tribunal, which did not pass any order with regard to nine hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, said that all the projects would build their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) and make them operational within three months.

The green bench further held that all the seriously polluting industries which are operating without consent from Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board shall be closed with immediate effect.

On the issue of mining on the river bed, the Tribunal said it shall be carried on in a highly regulated manner and under strict supervision.

“No mechanised river bed mining would be permitted. No JCBs (mechanical excavator) would be permitted to operate on the river bed,” it said.

The bench, also comprising Judicial member M S Nambiar and expert members D K Agrawal and B S Sajwan, directed Uttarakhand government (in coordination with Ministry of Textile) to provide bio-degradable materials including jute bags and such other items which can be permitted in the entire segment.

“We direct the state government and public authorities to ensure that public facilities like toilets are provided on the appropriate places in colonies abutting river Ganga all along segment-A of phase 1. Toilets should be connected and linked to bio-digesters or STPs constructed for that purpose alone,” it said.

The bench directed the state government to prepare an action plan to provide bio-toilets for pilgrims in Uttarakhand during the festive seasons.

The Tribunal, in its 150-page judgement, also directed that at least 100 meters from middle of the river Ganga would be treated and dealt with as “eco-sensitive and prohibited zone”.

“No activity whether permanent or temporary in nature will be permitted to be carried on in this zone including camping. The only exception would be points for picking up and dropping the guests who are doing rafting in river Ganga.

“The area beyond 100 meters and less than 300 meters would be treated as regulatory zone in the hilly terrain. The area upto 200 meters shall be prohibited area in the plain terrain and more than 200 meters and less than 500 meters would be treated as regulatory zone,” the bench said.

The green bench also held that there would be no throwing of any medical or bio-medical waste into the river on the river banks.

“If any hospital is found throwing such waste anywhere on land, water bodies or other places, state pollution control board and municipal authorities would recover Rs 20,000 per violation,” it said.

With regard to Rs 258 crores which was provided for Ganga cleaning project, the green panel noted that Rs 78 crore has been spent and directed Uttarakhand government and its various departments to divert remaining Rs 180 crore for carrying out its directions inluding setting up of STPs.

Camping activity banned at Rishikesh but rafting allowed

The NGT also banned camping activity in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh on the banks of river Ganga in Uttarakhand till the regulatory regime comes into force but permitted the adventure sport rafting with immediate effect.

“No camping activity shall be carried out in the entire belt of Kaudilaya to Rishikesh and the government would abide by its statement made before the tribunal on March 31, 2015, till the regulatory regime in terms of this judgement comes into forces and is effectively implemented,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.

The green panel, however, made it clear that rafting per se does not cause any serious pollution of river or environment and said, “We permit rafting activity to be carried on with immediate effect.”

The tribunal also imposed complete prohibition on use of any plastic items in the entire belt covered under the judgment.

The bench’s order came on a plea of an NGO Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) against the “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh and other areas on the banks of river Ganga.

The panel also constituted a committee of officials from both various departments of central government and Uttarakhand government to prepare a regulatory regime which should be submitted to the tribunal within three weeks.

It said that the Rapid Impact Assessment Report shall be treated as a relevant document and the committee would conduct or get conducted further survey to satisfy itself.

“The committee shall consider all aspects of Environment, Wildlife, River and Biodiversity while preparing the relevant regulatory regime,” the bench said, adding that it should also give recommendation for preventive and curative measures to ensure least disturbance to wildlife, on environment and ecology.

It said that the committee shall ensure that it not only identifies the sites which can be appropriately used for camping activity but also the manner and methodology in which such sites should be put to use for carrying on of these activities.

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Published on December 10, 2015
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