The proposed Ganga Act, which, if enacted, will be the first-of-its-kind legislation for river regulation in India, its aim being to bring under the Centre’s ambit the power to penalise the polluters.
The proposed Ganga Act, which, if enacted, will be the first-of-its-kind legislation for river regulation in India, its aim being to bring under the Centre’s ambit the power to penalise the polluters. A senior Water Ministry source said that the government’s inability to impose any fine or serve notices directly to polluters necessitates passing of a law to do so to arrest river pollution. The proposed Act would also give Centre an upper hand in times of inter-state disputes.
Another component that the draft Ganga Act, being worked upon by a committee, headed by Justice (Retd.) Girdhar Malviya, would have is banning of use of polythene during festive celebrations along the river. “The solid waste mismanagement is one of the major causes of river pollution,” said a source in the National Mission to Clean Ganga (NMCG), a nodal agency for implementation. The source added: “The committee may propose a ban on use of polythene and plastic, especially during festive seasons, along the 2,525-km-long stretch that the river traverses.”
As per official estimates, about 14,000 metric tonnes of solid waste is generated in five Ganga basin states, most of which goes into the river. The draft Act is also expected to touch upon the menace of open defecation around the river that grossly deteriorates the water quality.
“Presently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is the only authority empowered to serve notices to polluters under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act and to impose penalties as per the existing ‘polluters’ pay’ principle; the government thus has no option but to knock on the National Green Tribunal (NGT’s) door,” said the water ministry source, adding, “With a Ganga Act, the Centre would be able to directly deal with the polluters and would also be in a position to superimpose authority on the states during disputes.” The creation of a central authority under the water ministry at par with the CPCB is also on the anvil. That is the reason, the sources added, why Union water minister Uma Bharti is pushing for speedy passage of the law for which she is even garnering support from all quarters, including ministers in her own government.
“It (creation of Ganga Act) is really complicated but it is not impossible,” Ms Bharti had said recently here.
The Union River Rejuvenation Ministry, also headed by Uma Bharti, has been facing deadlocks with the Ganga river basin states, specifically Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, that have resulted in hardly any improvement in the state of affairs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Namami Gange project.
Compulsory real-time online monitoring of effluent discharge from industries may also figure in the draft, the sources said. “The CPCB identified 764 grossly polluting industries discharging their effluents directly into the Ganga or through its tributaries. Real-time monitoring systems have been installed in 556 units out of which 232 units have already been connected to a central server. The remaining are to be done by March 2017,” sources in the NMCG said, adding, “As the industrial effluents are responsible for nearly 25 per cent of river pollution, through the proposed Act the government would try to make it compulsory for all industries discharging their effluents into the Ganga to install real-time monitoring systems.”
Total 392 towns located in 5 major states of the Ganga basin: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Total solid waste generation: 14,000 metric tonnes per day
About 8,00,000 urban households defecate in the open around the river
The river contains more than 1.5 million bacteria per millilitre in Varanasi where open defecation and ablutions are common.
Total sewage generation in the Ganga basin states is more than 12,000 million litres per day
Gap in treatment of sewage waste is about 6,334 million litres per day