New Delhi October 16 :
In a fresh order the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a penalty of Rs 35 Crores on J&K Government for constantly polluting the Doodh Ganga which is a major source for drinking water in Srinagar uptown and some areas of Budgam district as well. The NGT principal bench of four members headed by Justice Adarsah Kumar Goel while pronouncing the order on Friday in the case of Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat v/s Govt of J&K said that apart from compliance in future, the liability of the State has to be fixed for the past violations in the light of earlier binding orders passed in pursuance of orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 2.9.2014
“Similarly, liability for compensation was laid down for failing to install water pollution control devices after 31.3.2020. The Tribunal has to follow ‘Polluter Pays’ principle under Section 20 of the NGT Act. The State Authorities contributing to the pollution by failing in their constitutional duties are to be held accountable on this principle. Admittedly, timelines under Supreme Court orders and orders of this Tribunal for preventing water pollution and statutory timelines for solid waste management are over. Thus, at least from 01.01.2021, the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle has to be applied. Compensation has to be equal to the loss to the environment and also taking into account cost of remediation” reads the order
The NGT principal bench directed the Govt of J&K to pay Rs 35 crores as compensation which has to be deposited by the Govt in a ring fenced account to be operated as per directions of the Chief Secretary for restoration of the Environment which will include preventing discharge of sewage in unscientific manner in drains or otherwise and improving the water quality of the Doodh Ganga. Part of the amount may be utilized for restoration of legacy waste dump sites and for remediation of the leftover legacy waste.
The order further reads : “Following the recent orders on the subject, we fix compensation for discharge of untreated sewage in the drain at Rs.32 crore and for failure to process solid waste at Rs.3 crore. We had earlier levied interim compensation of Rs. 3 Crores which may be adjusted. Remaining of Rs. 32 Crores be deposited by the State in a ring fenced account to be operated as per directions of the Chief Secretary for restoration of the Environment which will include preventing discharge of sewage in unscientific manner in drains or otherwise and improving the water quality of the drain. Part of the amount may be utilized for restoration of legacy waste dump site and for remediation of the leftover legacy waste “
Pertinently in its earlier order issued in March this year NGT had slapped a Rs 3 crore penalty on Govt for illegal dumping of solid waste , liquid waste and undertaking of illegal mining. The amount of Rs 3 crores were deposited in a separate account by SMC, ULB Kashmir and Geology and Mining Department. The money was to be spent on Doodh Ganga clean up but the same remains unutilized, sources said.
“ The government had a lot of time to clean up Doodh Ganga. Even after depositing Rs 3 crore penalty for dumping solid waste , liquid waste and illegal mining , the waste on the banks of Doodh Ganga is not being cleared by District Administration Budgam from Chadoora to Bagh e Mehtab. Open drains go into Doodh Ganga in Chadoora and Srinagar area . Dirty water is being supplied to people from the Kralpora water supply plant which contains sewage, solid waste . In addition to it the Riverbed Mining in Doodh Ganga is turning water muddy which is not only harmful for human consumption but it is a threat to Hokersar wetland also as siltation in the wetland is increasing day by day. Doodh Ganga is now like a drain. I was forced to seek intervention of NGT as Govt didn’t act on its own” said Dr Raja Muzaffar
The matter is now listed for next hearing on 24th May 2023. (KNS)