The National Green Court (NGT) ordered the authorities to take necessary measures to prevent pollution of the Ban Ganga river in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir and submit a status report by September 15, 2023. The complaint in the application before the court went against the failure of the competent authorities to take measures to prevent the pollution of the Ban Ganga river.
The river was claimed to be a source of drinking water for the city's inhabitants, but it is polluted by effluent discharge and garbage dumping in violation of the Water Law of 1974, the Air Law of 1981, and the Law of the Environment of 1986.
Authorities failed to take action
Despite large-scale media reports, the authorities have not taken any action in this regard. The NGT had sought a report of facts and measures taken from the J&K State Pollution Control Board and Municipal Council, Katra on 14 December 2021.
The report of measures taken submitted by the SPCB acknowledged the violations. It was found that there was a large amount of rubbish piled up and untreated municipal waste discharged into the Ban Ganga River, requiring corrective action.
Jammu and Kashmir Department of Housing and Urban Development submitted a report on July 15, 2022, which stated the implementation of a comprehensive plan for solid waste management for the city of Katra at a cost of Rs 8.49 crores.
The plan aims to process 19 TPD of wet waste and 19 TPD of dry waste. In addition, an alternative disposal facility and landfill were identified at Village Mand, Udhampur district, to stop mixed waste disposal at Tantalab. The facility must be properly configured to process the waste generated at Katra, the Shrine Board, and nearby areas without turning it into a legacy waste dump.
Garbage removed from Ban Ganga river
The remediation of the legacy waste is still pending, and a proposal has been made to undertake the remediation of only 65,000 MT in the first phase, against the total legacy waste of 101,757 cubic meters, at a cost of Rs. 485 lakhs under SBM. The timeline for remediation is expected to be June 2023. However, this must be expedited due to legal timelines, binding orders, and the ongoing adverse impact on the environment and public health.
Tracking the disposal of leftover waste is crucial. So far, SMVDSB has removed 357.70 MT of garbage and 76.56 MT of garbage has been removed on a trial basis. The remaining debris from the bank of the Ban Ganga river must also be removed.
Also, a proposed DPR at a cost of Rs. 95.69 lakhs has been submitted to the NRCD for financial approval/competition and sanction by the Ministry of Justice. The plan is to establish two STPs with a capacity of 1.2 MLD and 4.50 MLD to treat the entire wastewater generated in the Katra and SMVDSB area.
KMC and SMVDSB must execute the plan without further delay, as their responsibility does not end with the mere submission of proposals. They must ensure that sewage from urinals, septic tanks or pigsty/pony sheds does not enter the Ban Ganga River.
NGT Directives for Water Quality
The report also acknowledged that the data for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 show that the water quality in the Ban Ganga River in two places did not meet the required standards. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels exceeded the value of 3.06 mg/l, reaching up to 5.8 mg/l. Similarly, coliform levels indicated that the water quality did not meet tolerance limits.
In response to the court's directives, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with the assistance of other committee members, is working to ensure the scientific disposal of waste at Tan Talab.
The Katra Municipal Committee handles the collection and transportation of waste through the use of a fleet of vehicles, including Mahindra 407 vehicles with dry and wet waste partitions, TATA Yodha vehicles, tractors, electric rickshaws and compactor vehicles.
The report also emphasized the need for further action on the proposed Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the construction of two Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) at Katra Town and SMVDSB. The STPs will have the capacity to treat all of the wastewater generated in the area and will help prevent wastewater from septic tanks and animal stables from entering the Ban Ganga River.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development was ordered to monitor progress in mission mode, with the goal of achieving compliance by December 31, 2022. The court urged authorities to take measures to improve the water quality of the Ban River Ganga and prevent further environmental damage.
Urgent action needed to protect ban Ganga River
It is alarming that the authorities have not taken the necessary measures to prevent contamination of the Ban Ganga River, which is a source of drinking water for the local people.
The violation of the Water Law of 1974, the Air Law of 1981 and the Environment Law of 1986 is cause for grave concern. The lack of action on this matter despite large-scale media reports is unacceptable.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's comprehensive plan for solid waste management for the city of Katra is a welcome step, but the delay in bringing the waste processing facility online and remediating legacy waste is concerning.
The authorities must take immediate steps to ensure the cleanliness of the Ban Ganga River, and sewage treatment facilities must be established without further delay.
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