CHENNAI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given an ultimatum to State governments and directed 100 per cent treatment of sewage before released into the rivers. The tribunal has ordered that by March 31, 2020 the state governments must at least commence the work for setting up of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and the connecting drains.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had identified 351 river stretches as polluted river stretches in India for not meeting the prescribed water quality standards, of which six river stretches are in Tamil Nadu.
The green tribunal warned that if March 31 deadline is not met, "the local bodies and the concerned departments of the States/UTs will be liable to pay compensation...i.e. Rs 5 lakhs per month per drain, for default in in-situ remediation and Rs 5 lakhs per STP for default in commencement of setting up of the STP."
The five-member bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed Chief Secretaries to set-up appropriate monitoring mechanism at State level and National Mission for Clean Ganga will be the nodal agency, which would submit quarterly progress report to the tribunal commencing April next year.
Responding to NGT's order, senior officials in Tamil Nadu government told Express that River Rejuvenation Committee under the supervision of Principal Secretary, Environment and Forests has been formed and action plans for each of the six polluted river stretches identified was prepared and submitted to CPCB.
Of the six polluted stretches, four are categorised as priority-1, meaning highly polluted where Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) value is more than 30 mg/l as against permissible 3 mg/l. These include 200 km of Cauvery river from Mettur to Mayiladuthurai, 15 km Sarabanga river, 15 km Thirumanimutharu river and 10 km Vasista river. Besides, 60 km stretch of Bhavani river and 80 km stretch of Thamirabarani are classified as priority-4 and priority-5.
"The action plans for the rejuvenation of four polluted river stretches in priority-1 were submitted to CPCB in April this year and were approved for implementation," a senior official, privy to the developments, told Express.
In June, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Babul Supriyo, in a reply to a question in Parliament, said Centre has provided Rs 905.78 crore financial assistance to Tamil Nadu for augmenting sewage treatment capacity and claimed 15 sewage treatment plants have been created so far.
Supriyo said that it was the responsibility of state governments or local bodies concerned, to set up facilities for collection, transportation and treatment of sewage being generated and ensure untreated sewage does not fall into rivers and water bodies, thereby polluting them. He said his ministry has been supplementing the efforts of state governments in abatement of pollution in identified stretches of various rivers under the scheme of National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and conservation and management of lakes and wetlands.
NGT bench noted that situation of water pollution is grim in the country and there has been deterioration in spite of the Water Act which was enacted way back in 1974 which was intended to bring about any improvement. "This Tribunal has repeatedly put all authorities to notice in the light of earlier orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the subject. Directions were also issued for budgetary support as part of the action plans which has been done in indicative terms. There can be no plea of lack of funds on issue threatening the existence of human beings."
CPCB has identified six polluted river stretches in Tamil Nadu for exceeding the prescribed standard limit of Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand.
Name of the river --- Polluted stretch --- Distance (km) --- Priority
Sarabanga --- Thathayampatti to T Konagapadi --- 15 --- 1
Tirumanimutharu -- Salem to Papparapatti -- 15 -- 1
Vasista -- Manivilundhan to Thiyaganur -- 10 -- 1
Cauvery --- Mettur to Mayiladuthurai -- 200 -- 1
Bhavani -- Sirumugai to Kalingarayan -- 60 -- 4
Thamirabarani -- Pappankulam to Arumuganeri -- 80 -- 5
Total: 380 km