BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Wednesday passed a resolution granting living entity status to river Narmada which will enable the water body to have the same legal rights as a person.
Addressing the House, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan denied any political motive behind the ongoing Narmada Seva Yatra or Wednesday’sresolution in the Assembly, as alleged by the Opposition Congress members.
“Narmada river is not an issue of political debate, but an issue of faith. It’s a lifeline not only due to religious reasons, but also as it provides drinking water, helps in irrigating agricultural fields and also generates electricity for the state,” said Chouhan.
“Look at the condition of Ganga and Yamuna rivers today. Are we waiting for river Narmada also to go the same way? Is timely conservation of river Narmada by giving it living entity status wrong?” questioned Chouhan.
In March 2017, the Uttarakhand high court had declared the Ganga and Yamuna rivers as living entities, bestowing on them legal rights as a person, a move that could help in efforts to clean the pollution-choked rivers.
“We will follow the passage of Wednesday's resolution by bringing a legislation in the state Assembly for framing the necessary legal provisions to conserve Narmada and punish those who pollute it. A designated authority too will be created for conservation of the river. Legal action in form of lodging criminal case will be taken against anyone who pollutes the river,” said Chouhan.
The CM added that the grant of living entity status as a person having legal rights to river Narmada will also grant the river the ownership of its diverse resource base.
Taking a dig at the Congress leaders for taking potshots at the ongoing Narmada Seva Yatra (CM’s ambitious initiative to conserve river Narmada), Chouhan said “You are free to mock at me, but let me tell you that our efforts to conserve river Narmada will one day set an example to the entire world on how to conserve rivers effectively.”
The CM also informed the House that as 18 big cities are situated on the banks of river Narmada in MP, tenders have already been floated for setting up sewage treatment plants (STPs). These plants will not only stop polluted water from flowing into Narmada, but also divert the treated water into agricultural fields for irrigation.
Earlier, Congress leaders, including leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, chief whip Ramniwas Rawat, Mukesh Nayak, Dr Govind Singh and Mahendra Singh Kalukheda accused the CM of playing politics on river Narmada through the Narmada Seva Yatra for deriving electoral benefits.
While Kalukheda said the resolution brought in the assembly on Wednesday should have included the word political entity, Dr Govind Singh termed the Narmada Seva Yatra a publicity tool for the CM to win polls. The leader of opposition Ajay Singh demanded that before starting the Narmada Seva Yatra and bringing Wednesday’s resolution in the state assembly, the CM should have ordered a complete ban on mining in river Narmada.
The CM responded by saying that “whatever the National Green Tribunal (NGT) will direct us to do, it will be done. Whatever action has been done to stop illegal mining in river Narmada has been done by our government and not the previous Congress regime in the state.”
The debate which continued for around two hours saw Congress leaders Mukesh Nayak and Ramniwas Rawat recite Sanskrit shlokas and mantras about the mythological grandeur of river Narmada. The chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and minister of panchayat and rural development Gopal Bhargava responded to the Opposition party members with similar Sanskrit shlokas and mantras.