Observing that its “last hope” rests on the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Supreme Court referred to it the responsibility to monitor and inspect industrial units along the Ganga and even cut off water and power connections if the units are found to be polluting the river.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice T.S. Thakur said official apathy and “failure at various levels” in both the State and the Central Pollution Control Board had led to the Ganga dying at the hands of “highly” and “grossly” polluting units, which flushed their untreated effluents into the river without any checks.
The inaction had continued even after numerous orders were passed by the Supreme Court directing the authorities to protect the river since 1980s, when a PIL was filed before the court by lawyer M.C. Mehta highlighting the alarming state of the river and its depletion owing to pollution.
Describing the Ganga as a river held in high esteem and one which is unlike the other rivers in the country, the court observed in its detailed order that it is “our duty to ensure purification of the river”.
“There is no gainsaying that the river has significance not only in the religious and spiritual psyche of the people, but it is also a lifeline of people,” observed the Bench comprising Justices A.K. Goel and R. Banumathi. The river had suffered from the “institutional failure” of the authorities, which should have protected it from industrial units mushrooming on its banks.
Justice Thakur slammed the statutory authorities for doing “nothing” against the polluting industries.
“You should have stood up to these people who have both money power and resources, otherwise how will you prevent the river from being polluted,” Justice Thakur asked Solicitior-General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre.
“Your story is a complete story of failure, frustration and disaster. You need to stand up against the polluting units. It will take another 50 years if the task is left to you,” Justice Thakur observed.
The court has asked the tribunal to file a status report every six months on actions taken to control industrial pollution. It posted the case for further hearing on December 10 to pass further orders to curb domestic effluents.