NEW DELHI — 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 of 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 02.09.2014.
“Similarly, liability for compensation was laid down for failing to install water pollution control devices after 31.03.2020. 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 the cost of remediation,” reads the order.
The NGT principal bench directed the Government of J&K to pay Rs 35 crores as compensation which has to be deposited by the government 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 an unscientific manner in drains or otherwise and improving the water quality of the Doodh Ganga. Part of the amount may be utilized for the 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 crores 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. The remaining 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 the discharge of sewage in an unscientific manner in drains or otherwise and improving the water quality of the drain.”
Pertinently in its earlier order issued in March this year, NGT had slapped a Rs 3 crore penalty on the government for illegal dumping of solid waste, liquid waste and undertaking illegal mining. The amount of Rs 3 crores was 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 a 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 the district administration Budgam from Chadoora to Bagh-e-Mehtab,” Dr Raja Muzaffar said.
He added, “Open drains go into Doodh Ganga in Chadoora and Srinagar areas. Dirty water is being supplied to people from the Kralpora water supply plant which contains sewage and solid waste. In addition, 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 deteriorating day by day. Doodh Ganga is now like a drain. I was forced to seek the intervention of NGT as the government didn’t act on its own.”
The matter is now listed for the next hearing on May 24, 2023.