This Article is written by Soumya. (pursuing my LLB from BVIMR, BHARTI VIDYAPEETH UNIVERSITY, New Delhi)
Table of Contents
The Ganges and Yamuna were bestowed with the status of ‘Legal/Juristic Person‘ by the Uttrakhand HC in 2017 with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. Therefore, a suit can be instituted in name of the river, injury recognized, a polluter can be made liable and ask to compensate. Articles 48-A and 51 A(g)attracted by the court. The former is a directive principle of State policy and obliges the State to protect and the environment. While 51A(g) provides that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment. Many initiatives are taken by the government to protect the environment and Namami Ganga is also an initiative towards environment protection.
HISTORY OF POLICY
Namami Ganga Yojana is an initiative under Article 48-A launched in 2014 with a budget of 20000 crores to combat pollution in the river. Before this programme, several efforts have been made to revive Ganga. The water quality of the river was monitored and Ganga Action Plan was launched, in 1985, releasing the urgent need to rejuvenate the river. Ganga caters to 43% of the population and flows through 11 States. Approximately, 12000 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage is dumped into the river. Later, National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) was formed, which declared Ganga, as a national river and was responsible for flood management and sustainable use of water. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NCMG)was and continues to be the governing body and has statuary powers under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The (NCMG) went about its task in a holistic manner, dividing its mission into four major parts: Nirmal Ganga ( cleaning up pollution), Aviral Ganga ( ensuring ecology and flow), Jan Ganga( public participation) and Gyan Ganga (promoting research policies and management of river). The programme (NGP), will give socio-economic benefits, improved livelihood and health benefits.
Firstly, the rehabilitation and boosting of sewage treatment plants (STP) and effluent treatment plants (ETP) are stressed. The Government has sanctioned 333 projects worth Rs. 29578 crores out of which 142 are completed. In 2020, 6 STPs were made operational, increasing Uttrakhand’s sewage treatment capacity four times. In Patna, 11 STP are operational and 30 on way will increase recycling capacity to 651.5 (MLD). These projects delivered positive results in rural areas. The villages near Ganga are declared Open Defecation Free by building various household and community toilets. Jal Shakti Ministry, data showed significant improvement in water quality of Uttrakhand against 8-10% improvement along populated stretches, like Haridwar and Kanpur.
At present, the recycling capacity is 1794 MLD whereas, 2953 MLD is dumped into rivers from 97 major towns. The target under the yojna was 2000 MLD. The study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research on stretches of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal reveals fishing community is vulnerable to water-borne diseases due to direct contact with polluted water. It violates the right to a clean environment under Article 21. BD Joshi, Indian Academy of Environmental Sciences, stressed the pace of progress is slow and decades would be taken to clean Ganga and make it fit for consumption.
Second, the focus is to conserve, maintain the flow of water and groundwater and afforestation. The regular flow is ensured through the hydroelectric projects and maintaining wetlands. Rs. 14000 crores have been spent on afforestation but the trees planted, Gulmohar and kachnnar, are likely to yield results. To revive the flow of the Ganga, it should be clean, which is not possible in nearby years.
Third, an important tool is the participation of the public and research on policies and management of river Ganga. Ganga Manthan and Ganga Manch were launched for the participation of people from different walks of life. Ganga Knowledge Center was established to evolve knowledge base, analytical tools and awareness building. The Panchayat along the mainstream of rivers under the Gram initiative was given responsibility for the development of sanitation, water bodies and crematoria.
CAG REPORT 2017 ON NGP
The last report on NGP by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) was done in the year 2017 and tracked the progress between April 2014 and March 2017. The report stated the following drawbacks.
- Only Rs. 14.77 have been utilized till then under NCMG out of Rs. 198.48 sanctioned by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
- The activities like cleaning of river, installation of STPs and construction of household toilets were lacking far behind.
- The Government failed to come out with detailed action plan for cleaning and rejuvenating Ganga.
- In the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the river conservation zones were not identified.
- CPCB was to conduct 5,016 pollution but only 3,163 have been conducted.
DRAWBACKS OF THE POLICY
The Clean Ganga Mission is an unfulfilled dream. Some drawbacks of the policy are- The STP can only be successful when all the around the river are Open Defecation Free. Second, the ETP is expensive to build and maintain. Further, they contaminate the air by burning pollutants. The environmental policies have usually been neglected. There is also poor planning, negligence in the utilization of funds and lack of coordination among authorities.
The Parliament should consider National River Ganga ( Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2019 on an urgent basis. The bill addresses the issues like cleanliness, uninterrupted flow of the river and penalty provisions. Also, the river is given the rights of a living entity so the polluters will face consequences by law if they do anything to kill the river.