The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttarakhand government to ensure that waste is not discharged into the Ganga or its tributaries without treatment and an adequate number of sewage treatment plants are set up in the state. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that awareness programmes and monitoring cells should be constituted at the corporation level to make this happen.
“We direct the Uttarakhand government to ensure that no sewage or waste is dumped in any reservoir or drain without treatment and adequate arrangements be made for the construction of necessary sewage treatment plants,” the bench said.
It said, “It is necessary for all the towns and villages along the banks of the Ganges to follow the septic protocol as well as the rules applicable in flood protection areas.”
The tribunal said that the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand should look into this aspect and ensure compliance with the directions.
The bench gave this direction on a plea by Vipin Nair who had filed a petition against construction activities in the floodplain of river Ganga. The petition said that the Rishikesh Municipal Corporation is illegally constructing toilets in the flooded areas and from there the waste without treatment goes into the Ganga.
Last month, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, the Director-General of National Mission for Clean Ganga and the head of Namami Gange, in a book, admitted that bodies were dumped along the banks of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh when India’s Covid-19 crisis had reached horrific proportions during the second wave between April and May 2021.
During the height of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in May, reports emerged from multiple cities along the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh about bodies floating in the river or buried along its banks. The corpses were suspected to be of Covid-19 patients whose final rites could not be performed at crematoriums due to the huge rise in deaths at the time.
The book, titled Ganga: Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting, authored by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra and Puskal Upadhyay, who has worked with the National Mission for Clean Ganga, mentioned that the problem was restricted to only Uttar Pradesh. However, the authors rejected media reports that said over 1,000 bodies were dumped, and claimed that the number was not more than 300.