Doodh Ganga Pollution: High Level Meet To Discuss NGT Penalty

Srinagar- Five days after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slapped an unprecedented penalty of Rs 3 crore on the Jammu and Kashmir government for its acknowledged failure in preventing pollution in Doodh Ganga River, the Union Territory administration has called a meeting of senior officers on Monday to discuss the future course of action.

In a notice issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department on Saturday, eleven senior officers of the J&K Government have been asked to attend the meeting in Jammu on Monday.

As per the notice, Principal Secretary to Govt HUDD shall chair a meeting on 14.03.2022 Monday at 4pm in the meeting hall first floor civil secretariat Jammu. "To discuss the action required to be taken in light of the directions of the Hon’ble NGT in the case titled Raja Muzaffar Bhat v/s Union of India and others."

The notice has further said that Secretary PCB, DCs of Srinagar & Budgam , Commissioner SMC , Director Soil Conservation J&K, Director ULB Kashmir , Director Geology & Mining , Chief Engineers I&FC, UEED and Special Secretary legal (HUDD) have been invited to attend the meeting.

Notably, on Tuesday, NGT's principal bench had held the J&K Administration responsible for its failure to prevent illegal mining, discharge of sewage and dumping of solid waste into river Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kull.

The order was issued by NGT’s three member Principal bench. While hearing the case, the bench had imposed a fine of 3 crore under three heads--- Solid waste, liquid waste and illegal mining. The bench had also said that "it will be open to the State to recover the amount from the polluters or erring officers in accordance with law."

Pertinently, the principal bench's decision came against allegations levelled against several departments by an applicant. The applicant in this case had alleged that the administration had failed to prevent illegal mining, discharge of sewage and dumping of solid waste into river Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kull in violation of provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

The applicant had also alleged that The Srinagar Municipal Corporation was continuously discharging untreated sewage in river Doodh Ganga from 13 dewatering pumping stations installed at various locations on the banks of river Doodh Ganga.

“Till date no STPs has been established by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation or any other Government Body in the entire stretch around river Doodh Ganga as a result of which all the untreated sewage from residential, commercial establishments, shopping malls, butcher houses, poultry shops, laboratories, diagnostic centers and domestic sewage are directly discharged into the river without any scientific treatment.” the applicant had said.

On 14th January, a five-member Joint Committee—that was constituted by NGT—of CPCB, J&K PCC, Deputy Commissioners, Srinagar and Budgam and the Director, Urban Local Bodies, J&K had filed its report acknowledging the violations but without any meaningful remedial action.

The violations that were found by the five member joint committee included dumping of waste on the banks of the river, discharge of untreated sewage into the river, unregulated illegal mining activities and failure to protect the embankments of the river.

While mentioning the State’s failure in preventing pollution in Doodh Ganga river, The NGT’s three bench panel had directed the Chief Secretary, J&K to take immediate remedial action to remedy the situation by “ensuring clean environment and also taking coercive measures against the erring irresponsible officers, acting in contempt of directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and this Tribunal and causing detriment to the environment and public health.”

The panel had also ordered the Chief Secretary to personally file an action taken report before the Tribunal after interaction with the concerned officers within three months.

Pertinently, while referring to the Doodh Ganga violations as “large scale continuing violations”, the bench had directed the Principal Secretary, Urban Development, J&K to remain present in person on the next date of hearing.
Notably, last year, Kashmir Observer, in its weekly Inkishaf program titled, “TROUBLED WATERS OF DOODHGANGA” had highlighted how Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) was violating the Water (prevention & control of pollution) Act 1974; Section 24 (b), by draining untreated sewage waste into Doodh Ganga and destroying the river.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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