A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the approach of the Delhi government in preventing the discharge of untreated sewage and pollutants in the Yamuna was against the concern for environment and the rule of law.
The continued huge pollution of the river could certainly be attributed to governance deficit and an absence of sound management practices, it said.
The tribunal said there was no adequate sewage connectivity in Delhi and sewage charges were not being collected on account of the Mukhyamantri Free Sewer scheme.
"Such a policy is certainly contrary to the basic tenets of civic life and the fundamental duties of the authorities in-charge to deter pollution of the environment. There may be no objection to freeship if, in spite of freeship, the administration discharges basic obligations to prevent discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies, which is not happening," the bench said.
The tribunal said poor people were the worst victims as they were the most vulnerable and neither a citizen was required to pay for treatment of sewage nor the state was able to ensure such treatment from its own resources.
"Resources of the state are not meant to help a polluter. Pollution remains unabated, which seriously affects the rights of the citizens to a clean environment. It is better to provide a clean environment and recover the cost of remedying the pollution than declaring free sewage treatment and not treating the sewage," the bench said.
The NGT also took note of the observations of the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC), which said lakhs of residents of unsewered colonies continued to release their sewage into drains, caused pollution and did not pay anything as sewerage charges.
"It is questionable whether households should be exempt from paying sewerage charges despite polluting the drains and ultimately the ground water and the river. Whether the state should subsidise polluters and ought not the ''Polluters Pay'' principle apply are moot points, which the YMC cannot address, but these are highlighted as they affect the basic tenets of civic life and the fundamental duties of the authorities in charge to deter pollution of the environment," the committee had said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced free sewer connections for the residents of the national capital if they applied for one before March 31.
Under the "Mukhyamantri Muft Sewer Yojna", nearly 2.31 lakh people who do not have a sewer connection will benefit, Kejriwal had said, adding that it will also prevent the flow of untreated sewer into the Yamuna.
The scheme will cover 787 colonies where sewer lines have been laid.
"In some areas where sewer lines have been laid, some people do not have these connections. The Delhi cabinet has decided to provide free connections by waiving all charges," the chief minister had said.
The Delhi government will bear the entire cost of the new connections and an average household will save Rs 15,000 on this account, he had said. PTI PKS RC