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[Rejuvenation of River Yamuna] NGT asks Delhi government to comply with earlier orders to levy "sewage charge" on residents forthwith

"Rejuvenation of river Yamuna is an important function and DDA cannot shy away from its statutory responsibility," NGT said in its order passed on July 6.

Shruti Mahajan

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Delhi government to comply with the orders passed by the Supreme Court in 2019 on the issue of levy of sewage charge for residents in Delhi, in a pending case concerning the rejuvenation of River Yamuna.

The order was passed on July 6 by a Bench headed by NGT Chairman Justice AK Goel.

It stipulates that the Delhi government to “forthwith” comply with the orders passed by the Apex Court of levying sewage charge on all households in Delhi for releasing and discharging untreated effluents in river Yamuna that flows through the National capital.

The Bench directed the compliance of these orders to levy the sewage charge on the basis of the “polluter pays” principle. The Tribunal noted that despite a grim situation as regards the health of the river, the regulatory authorities had failed to apply the polluter pays principle.

“The Delhi Government may forthwith comply with the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 24.10.2019 on the subject of levy and recovery of the sewage charges.”
NGT

The genesis of this direction was in an order passed by the NGT back in 2015 when the Tribunal had directed the concerned authorities to levy and recover sewage charges from all households in Delhi regardless of whether they live in sewered or un-sewered localities. The Supreme Court which had also upheld the order.

The NGT has now noted that in the process of rejuvenation, the major problem continues to be pollution caused by the discharge of sewage, industrial effluents and other pollutants.

“If Yamuna is to be rejuvenated such discharges either directly or through drains need to be stopped.”
the NGT observed.

This process can be effectively carried out only if the authorities ensure that the discharge of untreated effluents into the river is prevented. Polluting industries need to be stopped and new industries shall not be allowed to function without proper and prescribed safeguards for this process, the Tribunal observed.

In addition to the rejuvenation of river Yamuna, the issue of floodplains and removal of encroachment from these areas are also areas of concern on which the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) “has to own the responsibility in an effective manner,” the Tribunal added.

Further, the Tribunal rejected the submission made by the DDA that a dedicated specialised agency for protection of floodplains and restoration purpose cannot be set up. Calling this stand “untenable”, the NGT said further,

“A dedicated agency needs to be in place which can focus on issues relating to the Yamuna rejuvenation and also involve the civil society or such other experts/institutions as may be found necessary for ecological restoration of the flood plain zones, setting up of bio-diversity parks, artificial wetlands, phyto-remediation of drains at the river mouth locations, maintaining the vigil and undertaking flow measurement, creating ecological services, removing encroachments and undertaking other activities, including river front development.”

The direction passed by the Tribunal earlier for setting up of such an agency was not without the knowledge of the structure and functioning of the DDA, the NGT said. It added that detailed discussions on this option were found to be viable and necessary which led to the NGT’s direction on the same.

“Rejuvenation of river Yamuna is an important function and DDA cannot shy away from its statutory responsibility. Yamuna rejuvenation can be model for rejuvenation of 351 river stretches in the country given its location in national capital territory where all experts authorities and funds are available.”

NGT

The Court thus ordered the Delhi government to comply with this direction for setting up of an agency “instead of finding lame excuses and taking stand of avoiding public duty.”

Tracking the flow of the river, the Tribunal also said that besides the Delhi government, even the States of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have a responsibility they cannot avoid. The NGT opined that these States must also take up measures like awareness programs with the involvement of the civil society as well as putting in place an effective institutional monitoring mechanism.

The Court has directed the States od Delhi, UP, and Haryana to comply with the recommendations made by the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) and asked YMC itself to continue monitoring the situation and compliance of its recommendations.

The Court will hear the matter next in January 2021.

Read Order:

Manoj Mishra vs UOI (NGT order on Yamuna rejuvenation).pdf
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