The Supreme Court of India has registered a suo motu writ petition titled “Remediation of Polluted Rivers” with the object of examining the increasing pollution in river bodies across India. The Court also stated that the task would begin with focus on contamination of river Yamuna.
The development came about during the hearing of a plea by Delhi Jal Board regarding dumping of untreated effluents by State of Haryana in Yamuna river which was spiking the ammonia levels in the water rendering it unfit for drinking.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian while issuing notice in the plea by Delhi Jal Board also registered the suo motu case to examine and remedy the larger issue of pollution of rivers.
“We direct registration of suo moto writ petition (civil) with regard to ‘Remediation of polluted rivers’. We deem it appropriate at this stage to start with the issue of contamination of river Yamuna,” the Court ordered.
Notice was issued in this regard to the States of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh and to Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The Delhi Jal Board petition was tagged with the suo motu writ petition registered to address the pollution of rivers across the country.
The top court in its order discussed the genesis of river pollution highlighting the importance of open rivers.
“Open surface water resources including rivers are lifeline of human civilization. In olden days, almost all the human settlements were at the bank of some river as it provided for an array of utilities such as potable water, irrigation, food, livelihood, transportation, etc. Every civilization including ours, has shown great amount of gratitude to these life creating resources,” the Court said.
The Court also observed that water pollution can harm not only human health but also adversely affect other aquatic animals.
“The effect of water pollution on human health is not the only adverse factor. Water pollution can seriously harm the aquatic life in water bodies. It has become necessary, to compare the costs of prevention and control of water pollution against its effects on human health including treatment, indirect economic costs and damage to flora and fauna,” the order stated.
One of the major causes of water pollution is discharge of non-treated/partially treated municipal waste including sewage effluent of cities which results in deterioration in chemical, physical, and biological properties of water, it was noted.
Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora who has been appointed as the Amicus Curiae in the case had argued how the sewage treatment plants by Haryana was not functional at some places.
Taking note of the argument, the Supreme Court ordered that “mandate of law is clear as far as setting up of Sewage Treatment Plants and stoppage of sewage effluents in surface water are concerned, but it is often found as highlighted by this petition that either the sewage is not treated through a plant before being discharged or the treatment plants are not functional or incapacitated.”
Supreme Court, therefore, directed CPCB to submit a report identifying municipalities along the river Yamuna, which have not installed total treatment plants for sewage as per the requirement or have gaps in ensuring that the sewage is not discharged untreated into the river.
CPCB was also been directed to highlight any other source of prominent contamination within the limits of municipalities and submit priority-wise list of those municipalities with river stretches which are most polluted.