SC gets tough on water pollution

Uncontrolled and unregulated pollution of water bodies in India is a matter of grave concern, and the Supreme Court’s direction to the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) to initiate stringent action against polluting industrial units across the country, has not come a day too soon. The court was acting on a public interest litigation that had raised serious concern over massive pollution of sources of water, including surface water, groundwater and sea water that have put at risk the health and livelihoods of millions of people and also the well-being of animals, the flora and the fauna. A division bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar has directed the SPCBs to issue notices to all polluting industries to install effluent treatment plants within the next three months and if they fail to do so, to disconnect power supplies and shut them down till the plants are erected. The apex court needs to be congratulated for its ‘enough-is-enough’ approach, as a corrupt system and weak regulatory bodies have allowed many unscrupulous industries to contaminate and poison natural sources of water for small gains for themselves. Considering the enormity of the problem to be tackled, the court should consider giving the industries sufficient time to set up treatment plants.

The significance of the SC’s intervention at this point in time can be gauged from the fact that the latest assessment by WaterAid, an international organisation working for water sanitation and hygiene, shows that an alarming 80% of India’s surface water is polluted. Chemical waste and sewage flowing into water bodies including rivers have almost doubled in the last five years. A Norwagein agency points out that the Bollaram-Patancheru region of the city of Hyderabad, regarded as a major manufacturing destination for pharmaceutical products in the world, has earned notoriety for releasing extremely hazardous chemicals into lakes and rivers
without treatment at source. Such criminal activities, researches have shown, not only lead to anti-microbial resistance in human bodies, but the pollution in general increases the burden of vector borne diseases, cholera, dysentery, jaundice and diarrhoea, especially among a vast majority of poor people.
Considering that in terms of volume, the domestic sewerage accounts for almost 75% of water pollution, the SC has also directed the municipal authorities to set up common sewerage treatment plants within three years. Here, the role of state governments and local bodies will be vital in enforcing the order. But, overall, as SPCBs are notorious for dragging their feet in acting against the culprits, the court should set up a monitoring cell under its supervision, so that even common people can send in their complaints if the orders are not complied with.

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