Govt motive to clean Ganga under SC lens

Court asks Centre to file affidavit outlining timeline

Govt motive to clean Ganga under SC lens

The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the National Democratic Alliance government over its commitment to the avowed objective of cleaning the Ganga, wondering if it would be able to finish the task in this tenure or the next.


A three-judge bench presided over by Justice T S Thakur asked the government to file an affidavit indicating the timeline for completing different projects like setting up of sewage treatment plants being undertaken in five states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, by the Ganga River Basin Authority.

“This has been going on for 30 years since 1985, you (the Centre) tell us verifiable progress...this is something you are committed to,” the bench asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, representing the Centre.

“Don’t take it (matter) as an adversarial litigation. Do you want to say that this has to be done during this term or the next term of the government,” the court further asked Kumar, who submitted that the government would do it by 2018.

The bench, also comprising Justices R K Agrawal and Adarsh Kumar Goel, pointed out that around Rs 2,000 crore had already been spent and money was not a constraint for the government.

The Ganga Action Plan for cleaning the river started in 1985 with the aim of building low cost sanitation, sewage treatment and diversion, and building electric crematoriums. The National Ganga River Basin Authority was set up in February 2009 as an empowered authority.

The Narendra Modi government took a number of initiatives, including “Namami Ganga”, for rejuvenating the river after coming into power in May as the Bharatiya Janata Party included it in its poll manifesto.

The government announced Rs 2,037 crore in the budget for the integrated programme.
It also proposed constitution of a task force to ensure proper implementation of the programme, “Ganga Grams” for promoting sanitation in rural areas on the banks of the river, besides a Ganga Institute of River Sciences.

In its earlier affidavit, the government said it has identified 118 urban habitations along the banks of the Ganga for extending sewage infrastructure at an estimated cost of Rs 51,000 crore.

During the hearing, as Kumar submitted that the ministry supervising the work has been rechristened as “Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation”, the court asked the solicitor general to desist from getting into “bureaucratic jargon”.

“If we were to take a sample (of water) today, will you be able to say that you are going to take A, B or C measures for Ganga rejuvenation,” the bench asked Kumar. 

Kumar submitted that out of 70 sewage treatment plants in five states, 31 were ongoing, 15 were at bidding stage and over 20 are ready. The court asked the government to come out with the fresh status of the 15 proposed sewage treatment plants.
DH News Service

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