NGT SUGGESTS NATIONAL RIVER REJUVENATION MECHANISM
Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Ministry of Jal Shakti to devise an appropriate National River Rejuvenation Mechanism for effective monitoring of steps to curb pollution and for rejuvenation of all polluted river stretches across the country.
Assessment of the CPCB:
- According to the 2016-17 assessment of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the number of polluted stretches of the country’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 two years
- ago, and the number of critically polluted stretches — where water quality indicators are the poorest—has gone up to 45 from 34.
- Among them, 117 such river stretches are in the States of Assam, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
Basis of the CPCB Assessment:
- The CPCB, since the 1990s, has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers primarily by measuring Biochemical Oxygen Demand(BOD), which is a proxy for organic pollution—the higher it is, the worse the river.
- The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3 mg/l an indicator of a healthy river.
The NGT had constituted a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to make over 350 river stretches across the country pollution free as it has caused serious threat to safety of water and environment.
There has been deterioration in the quality of water in rivers in spite of the Water Act which was enacted way back in 1974 which was intended to bring about improvement.
Establishment of NRRM:
- NGT suggested the mechanism could be called ‘National River Rejuvenation Mechanism (NRRM). NRRM may consider setting up a National, State or district environment data grid at appropriate levels as an effective monitoring strategy. Expansion in the Scope of NRRM:
- The process of rejuvenation of rivers need not be confined to only 351 stretches but may be applicable to all small, medium and big polluted rivers, including those dried up.
- Effective measures should be taken by Chief Secretaries of all States and UTs in terms of action plans for abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of rivers.
- The Chief Secretaries are also required to personally monitor progress at least once every month and the NRRM every quarter.
- The accountability for failure to comply with the direction for payment of compensation will be of the Chief Secretaries concerned.
Causes of Polluted River Stretches:
- Rapid urbanisation and lack of efficient waste disposal systems. Industrial Cities on the banks of rivers.
- Run-off from agricultural activities, etc.
Impact of Pollution:
- The World Bank estimates that the health costs of water pollution in India equal three percent of India’s GDP.
- It has also been suggested that eighty percent of all illnesses in India and one-third of deaths can be attributed to water-borne diseases.
- The danger Ganga’s polluted water poses is not only to the humans but also to the animals. Some of the important threatened species include, more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species, reptiles such as the Gharials, and mammals such as the South Asian River Dolphin.
Related Constitutional Provisions:
- Article 21: The fundamental right to clean the environment, and further, pollution-free water, has been protected under the broad rubric of the right to life.
- Article 51-A (g): It mandates as a fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.
Initiatives to Tackle Water Pollution:
National Water Policy (2012):
- It aims to take cognizance of the existing situation, to propose a framework for creation of a system of laws and institutions and for a plan of action with a unified national perspective.
- Started by the Ministry of Water Resources, it highlights the importance of water for human existence as well as for economic development related activities.
- It suggests frameworks to conserve water resources through optimal, economical, sustainable and equitable means.
- National Water Mission (2010): It ensures integrated water resource management leading to water conservation, less wastage, equitable distribution forming better policies.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) which envisages a five-tier structure at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control, and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga.
- It aims to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate theriver Ganga.
- Namami Gange Project: It integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner.
SOURCE: PIB,THE HINDU