The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to pay Rs 100 crore for improper management of liquid waste in the districts of Pratapgarh, Raebareli, and Jaunpur.

A Bench headed by chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that as per the report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), bio-remediation was not resulting in the reduction of pollution load.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel noted that the timeline fixed for having in place funding arrangements had long expired, and that remedial actions were not taken.

Advocate Katyayni appeared for the applicant while Garima Prashad, AAG appeared for the UP Government Advocate Raj Kumar for CPCB and Advocate Daleep Dhyani for UPPCB.

It is patent that such default is to the detriment and public health and water pollution results in water-borne diseases which are detrimental to health and at times fatal, the Bench said.

While funds appear to have been allocated for future remediation and it is stated that in due course pollution may be controlled, the question is the accountability for past violations, the green panel added.

The Bench further said that even if the contention of the authorities concerned about installing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) by October 31, 2022, was accepted, in absence of connectivity of the STPs to the sewage and drains, it was difficult to accept that pollution will be brought under control.

The authorities are depending upon bio-remediation and claiming a reduction of load to the extent of 50 per cent but on verification, CPCB has reported that bio-remediation Is not resulting in the reduction of pollution load, the Bench said.

The Bench then noted that the tribunal had earlier fixed the financial liability of a state under the 'Polluter Pays' principle for the discharge of untreated sewage in water bodies at the rate of Rs 2 crore per million litres per day (MLD).

"In the light of above, we determine the liability of State of U.P for discharge of 55 MLD sewage into rivers at Gorakhpur at Rs. 110 Crores. As already noted, water pollution is also one of the sources of EV. Further, for failure to process solid waste, on scale applied in other cases, compensation is to be fixed. As per information given during the hearing, there is unprocessed legacy solid waste is 3.8 lakhs MT at two sites. Applying the scale of compensation followed in case of Maharashtra, compensation comes to Rs. 11.40 crore which is rounded of at Rs. 10 crores. Thus, total compensation is determined at Rs. 120 crores", the Tribunal held.

Since as per the independent Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report which remains undisputed, untreated sewage to the extent of more than 50 MLD is being discharged into the drains, the compensation works out to at least Rs 100 crores, which will include the (unpaid) amount of Rs 36.5 crores levied by the State Pollution Control Board (PCB)..., the Bench said.

The NGT also constituted a nine-member monitoring committee, which was to meet within a month and update the action plan for the prevention and remediation of pollution.

Steps will include operationalization of STPs, interception and diversion of drains to the respective STPs and maintaining floodplain zones of rivers, preventing encroachment, ensuring plantation and desilting of the rivers and other associated activities, the Bench said.

The Bench further said that the CPCB and UPPCB could simultaneously undertake joint visits to ascertain the status of the commissioning of STPs and connections of households along with the final connectivity of sewers to STPs.

The water quality of rivers had to be regularly monitored and the CPCB could advise the UPPCB about the continuation of bio-remediation of drains, the NGT said.

An action taken report may be filed with the Registrar General of the tribunal within six months, the Bench said.

The tribunal was hearing a petition regarding the failure of the authorities in the districts of Pratapgarh, Raebareli, and Jaunpur in preventing the discharge of untreated sewage into the Sai River.

Cause Title: Meera Shukla v. Municipal Corporation, Gorakhpur & Ors.

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With PTI inputs