THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Wheels have been set in motion to clean up 21 polluted river stretches in the state. A four-member River Rejuvenation Committee (RRC) has been constituted in compliance with the direction of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Principal Bench, New Delhi, to work towards ensuring a healthy river ecosystem in the state. The committee will be headed by Environment secretary P H Kurian and carry out its objectives with the help of the newly-formed state/district level Special Environment Surveillance Task Forces (SESTF).
“The state has constituted an RRC on the NGT’s directive and draft action plan has been submitted to the tribunal,” said K Sajeevan, chairman, Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).Though the NGT, in its order in September, had directed the states and union territories to form RRCs and send their progress reports on or before December 15, the state government gave administrative nod for the RRC on December 12 only, it was found. It is alleged the draft action plan was prepared in haste to meet the NGT deadline. However, the Environment Department denied this and said a detailed action plan will be chalked out by the RRC in a time-bound manner.
The committee comprises the director of Environment, director of Urban Development, director of Industries and the KSPCB member secretary. It will prepare the action-plan and act as the monitoring committee for the execution of the said plan.
“The action plan will include components like identification of polluting sources, status of sewage and effluent treatment plants, solid waste management and processing facilities and others,” said an officer with the Environment Department.
The officer said since the NGT order will hold the Chief Secretary accountable for not formulating the action plan, RRC has expedited its efforts to finalise the plan. The NGT order had stated that while the states and UTs will have to prepare the respective action plan within two months, the polluted rivers will have to be made fit at least for bathing within six months from the date of finalisation of the action plan.
Environmentalists flay RMA formation
A section of the environmentalists has flayed the state government’s idea to constitute a River Management Authority (RMA) in line with the National Ganga River Basin Authority. They said forming two bodies with similar objectives might result in a loss to the state exchequer. “With the constitution of the RRC, the proposed RMA has become obsolete. Instead of coming out with same bodies, the government should focus on strict enforcement of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act and NGT directives,” said V K Madhusoodanan, an environmentalist.