‘Get Effluent Treatment Plants Running in 3 Mths’
CJI suggests govt to come up with a cess to cover running expenses of these plants
New Delhi: In a huge step that would curb industrial effluents from being released untreated into water bodies and check water pollution, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed all industrial units to ensure that they have their primary effluent treatment plants (ETPs) up and running in three months or have their power connections cut off to ensure compliance.
Those units which release effluents above the permissible norm would also meet with a similar fate, the court said. They would then have to prove to the respective state Pollution Boards that they have resolved the problem before they are allowed to resume operations.
“Everything is difficult, but human lives are bad. We must start somewhere, start moving,” a bench, comprising Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, observed at the beginning of the court proceedings when it ran into opposition from some states about its proposed intervention in this field.
The bench also ordered that industrial areas have their common ETPs in place within 3 years or face similar action. This would allow states to acquire land for these plants, including space for zero-discharge plants. The state pollution control boards and environment secretaries will ensure this and the regional benches of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) monitor the progress. These CETPs are funded 50% by the Centre, 25% by state governments and another 25% by banks. These bank loans are then recovered from the users.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, ap- pearing for PIL petitioner Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, argued that lack of funds was one critical factor why these CETPs fell into disrepair over the years. This prompted the CJI to suggest to the government that it come up with a cess or surcharge to cover their running expenses. “Users must pay,” the CJI suggested. He asked the Central government to come up with a scheme this financial year which can come into effect from the next. Local bodies in states were asked to explore similar options which would involve plans of recovering the amounts from industrial and domestic users. In case, states did not evolve norms, the CJI said, they would have to cater for all the funds required.
While undertaking this massive exercise, state PCBs were directed to target cities and towns and villages which discharge effluents and sewage into rivers and water bodies. Sewage treatment plants would similarly be set up in the same timeline, the CJI observed. The bench also directed all states to copy the Gujarat, MP, UP model of real-time monitoring of such discharge through sensors.
The CJI also asked all states to initiate civil and criminal action under the law against the defaulting units, wondering why not a single individual or company had so far been prosecuted for this.