Observing that the challenge of cleaning Ganga remains despite monitoring it for the past 36 years, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said that it is time to fix accountability for proper and timely utilisation of funds allocated for cleaning the river.
The tribunal said there is a need for due investigation about the funds allocated and their utilisation, in terms of achieving the result of reducing pollution load.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that although initiatives at the level of Central government have been taken up, by the way of Ganga Action Plans I & II and thereafter, setting up of NMCG, the river continues to be polluted.
The green court said timelines are breached without accountability, leading to adverse consequences.
"Failure of monitoring and fixing accountability only results in wastage of public funds, continued pollution, and resultant deaths and diseases. There appears to be a need to consider, at the highest level in the hierarchy of the administration concerned, structural changes in the functioning of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in terms of fixing accountability for maintaining the timelines and exploring management strategies so as to achieve the targets within foreseeable time," the bench said.
The NGT said that performance parameters and timelines need to be clearly defined and performance audits conducted.
"To the extent failure, causes for the same and persons responsible need to be identified and made appropriately accountable. A mechanism needs to be worked out to be operative on a continuous basis in this regard of identifying those responsible for failure in performance. Without disciplinary and quality control, there may be little chance of success of the laudable mission," the bench said.
The tribunal said that an in-house review mechanism is required to be strong, which, at present, does not appear to be. If it is found that agencies employed by NMCG for executing its pollution abatement and control plan cannot adequately deliver, structural changes need to be considered by assigning the work to an appropriate agency, be it governmental, private, or hybrid, who can be held accountable in terms of performance and achieving the targets, it said.
"In short, performance needs to be evaluated and accountability fixed. Quarterly reports giving the details of the funds allotted and progress achieved in terms of reduction in pollution load and other parameters may be placed on the website of NMCG so as to enable enhanced community participation and support. Compensation, as directed in the last order, may now be positively collected by the CPCB and the NMCG within two months," it said.
"In case of non-compliance, coercive measures be taken, including initiating prosecution against the defaulters under Section 26 of the NGT Act, 2010. NMCG and CPCB may file their report of further progress as on March 31, 2022, by April 15, 2022, which may also be simultaneously uploaded on their respective websites," the bench said in a recent order.
The matter is listed for further consideration on April 28, 2022.
The NGT had earlier directed chief secretaries of northern states to periodically monitor the Ganga rejuvenation, saying it is a "pity" that even after constant monitoring by different courts, pollutants continue to be discharged in the river. The green panel had directed the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal to monitor the rejuvenation work periodically.
The NGT had earlier rapped the NMCG over its failure to control pollutants entering the river and other water bodies, saying its report does not show any meaningful action.
The NGT had earlier formed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to rejuvenate 350 river stretches across the country by making them pollution-free.
The tribunal had said that there has been a deterioration in the quality of water in rivers despite the Water Act, which was enacted in 1974, intended to bring about improvement.
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