Panel moots Rs 10-cr fine for water pollution

With industrial units getting away with meagre fine for polluting rivers and lakes, a parliamentary panel has suggested enhancing the maximum penalty up to Rs 10 crore and a minimum penalty of Rs 1 lakh along with imprisonment for violation of the Water Act, 1974, and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The undeterred penalty provision is not the only factor because of which rivers and lakes are getting contaminated. A “highly tolerant inspection regime” of the state pollution control boards is also equally culpable, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament says in its report tabled in the House.

While the union environment and forest ministry informed the panel about its plan to enhance the penal provisions, the House panel asked the government to expeditiously implement the new proposal, under which the minimum penalty would be enhanced by ten fold from the present level of Rs 10,000 and the maximum would be Rs 10 crore.

The PAC findings are based on a 2011-12 Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, in which the audit watchdog examined 140 projects across 24 polluting stretches of river, 22 lakes and 116 blocks in 25 states. The audit found that water pollution in 14 major, 55 minor and several hundred small rivers remains a serious concern for want of effective legislative and policy framework.

Even though India has a law to tackle water pollution since 1974, the legislation neither address the issue of restoration of the polluted water bodies nor imposes stricter financial and non-financial penalties to environmental offenders.

Incidentally, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 is one of the legislation that was reviewed by an expert panel, set up by the Narendra Modi government, under the chairmanship of former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian.

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