SC Raps Centre Over the Cleaning of Ganga

The Narendra Modi Government's ambitious poll promise to depollute river Ganga came under severe scrutiny today in the Supreme Court which said it seems that steps taken so far will not lead to cleaning of the country's holiest river even after 200 years.

The apex court directed the Centre to come out in three weeks with a "stage-wise plan" to clean the river for "restoring it to its pristine glory".

"After seeing your action plan, it seems Ganga will not be cleaned even after 200 years. Evaluate the dream project You have to take steps to restore Ganga to its pristine glory.

"The dream project is there. Please try that the next generation is able to see the river in its original form. We don't know whether we will see it or not," a bench comprising justices T S Thakur and R Banumathi observed.

It said the "bureaucratic" approach in the action plan would not help in accomplishing Prime Minister's dream project of cleaning the river Ganga and asked the government to come out with "power point presentation" instead of giving vision plan and "artistic view".

The bench said it was not concerned about the financial assistance coming from other countries but was worried how the common people be explained about the proposal for proceeding with project of cleaning the 2500-km long river stretch.

"We don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of committees etc. But common man expects to know how the cleaning Ganga process will emerge. They should at least know how the government is proceeding.

"You have given a very bureaucratic kind of explanation. We want to see it in a layman's language as to how you are proceeding with the project," the bench told Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar after perusing the affidavit filed by Uma Bharti's Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

The Bench, which asked the Solicitor General to file a supplementary affidavit, said power point presentation would help in understanding the stage-wise action plan.

It specifically asked the Government to apprise about the steps taken in ecologically sensitive areas from Gangotri to downstream 135 km of the river as "no follow up steps have been taken up" after the 2003 notification. 

The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on September 24, said in the present affidavit the government has only given the broad parameter on the issue and without the stage-wise plan it would be difficult to clean the river.

It noted in its order that the Solicitor General was ready to file supplementary affidavit in which government would give in detail the steps likely to be taken by it in stage-wise manner for cleaning the river.

"We expect government to set out stages for execution of the project," the bench said and during the hearing it also made its intention clear that the apex court would not hesitate in assisting the Governement by legal process if industrial units don't comply with laws.

Government has said it is committed to its pre-poll promise of making the river which passes through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns, free from pollution.

In its affidavit, the Centre said, "it accords a status of national priority to the rejuvenation of river Ganga and the basic framework to achieve this national priority consists of evolving suitable strategies and action points in several thrust areas."

It said maintaining ecological flow in the river, abatement and mitigation of various types of pollution in it, restoring ecological sanctity, creating awareness about the conservation of river and ensuring people's participation in this process are some of the thrust areas.

"The achievements of these objectives entail multi-institutional, multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral approach," the affidavit said, adding to achieve this, consultative process, involving various ministries concerned has commenced to arrive at common strategy and action plan."

A group of secretaries has been tasked to go into issues connected with realisation of the objectives. Their report is presently under examination.

Besides, the consortium of seven IITs have been entrusted with the task of finalising holistic Ganga River Basin Management. Their report is likely to be available by the end of December 2014, the affidavit said.

It is visualised that by the same time consultative process on the report of group of secretaries may also get completed.

Thereafter a comprehensive review will be undertaken duly involving the states and plan of action finalised thereafter.

"The road map will consists of short, medium and long term measures and their achievements in a coordinated time bound manner," the affidavit said, adding "the government in its budget has proposed to set up an integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called "Namami Gange" for conservation and improvement of Ganga and budgetary allocation has been made for this purpose".

"Budgetary allocation has been made for the ghat cleanliness and beautification of river front at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Delhi in the current financial year and Centre is also coordinating with external funding agencies like Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and World Bank for meeting fund requirements.

The ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change are coordinating to arrive at suitable ways and means for determination and maintenance of e-flow," the affidavit said.

Government said the evaluation of various technologies suitable for the purpose has also started by forming a committee of experts, which will advise about the selection of appropriate technologies.

The affidavit further said that the government has been actively considering the appropriate modification and restructuring of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to make it more effective.

During earlier hearing on August 13, the apex court had reminded Modi government that cleaning of Ganga was on its poll manifesto and why urgent steps are not being taken on it.

The court had said the issue of cleaning Ganga is very important and it has to be put on the front burner.

The government had earlier informed that the NGRBA, the nodal agency involved in the clean Ganga mission, has been transferred from MoEF to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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Digression

6/D-30
Sep 05, 2014
09:25 AM

If Sinha has "friends" like Moin Quereshi (as claimed by Sinha himself) it is astonishing how his name was cleared for the post of Director, CBI by the IB, the same lofty agency which scuttled the nomination of Gopal Subramanium for appointment to the Supreme Court.

No investigating officer, of any department and of any rank, worth his salt would even THINK of allowing persons who are subject matters of ongoing investigation by his office, or touts going by the euphemism of "liaison agents", coming to see him at his residence at any time. Unless of course the officer has ulterior motives.

And now Sinha and his advocate have the temerity to question how the NGO which unearthed this sleaze got access to the information at all, as if it was some state secret. To top it all, Sinha asks the SC to gag the media on the subject.

Sinha also boasts that no other predecessor of his has targetted so many big-wigs from the trade and bureaucracy as he has. As though this gives him a halo around his head and entitles him to holding durbars of the supplicants in his house where he can lord it over them. It only reveals his feudal mentality.

Sinha should be replaced forthwith by a sober and low profile officer who knows that the powers granted to him under the law are solely for the discharge of his duties, and not for self aggrandisement.

Ramesh Ramachandra, Bangalore
5/D-78
Sep 04, 2014
05:30 PM

WHo is going to rap the SC on all the backlogged cases?

Instead of wading into the domain of the Executive, SC should look into itself and start resolving cases.

Akash Verma, Chennai
4/D-74
Sep 04, 2014
04:59 PM

SC is clearly crossing the boundary here.

Akash Verma, Chennai
3/D-43
Sep 04, 2014
11:19 AM

1/D-19 PB JOSHIPURA >> No, the SC doesn't have any expertise at all in measures to clean up the Ganga. Nor does have any business to interfere in matters like controlling pollution in Delhi by forcing the Delhi Govt. to switch to CNG, or tackling noise pollution in the country, or prescribing safety regulations for school buses, or advising PMs and CMs not to appoint crooks in their cabinets. But when government abjectly fails its citizens by abdicating its basic responsibilities in all spheres of governance as all previous governments have so far, we have had at least the SC ( whatever may be its failings) which has stepped in on behalf of the citizens' natural rights to a decent life. If the judiciary has become too big for its boots and arrogant as a result, it is only successive corrupt and inept administrations out of touch with those who elected them which are responsible for it. </p>

Ramesh Ramachandra, Bangalore
2/D-36
Sep 04, 2014
10:52 AM

What is wrong with the SC. They were silent for the last 60 years when the Ganga was getting polluted and now indulge in running commentary on within two months of Modi government.

RSM, Delhi
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