River Pollution Current Affairs - 2019
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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to make over 350 river stretches pollution free across the country. River pollution has caused a serious threat to the safety of water and environment.
Order of NGT
- The committee would comprise representatives of NITI Aayog; secretaries of Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Environment; the director general of National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Central Pollution Control Board chairman.
- The Committee will also coordinate with the River Rejuvenation Committees of the states and oversee the execution of the action plans, taking into account the timelines, budgetary mechanism and other factors.
- Chief Secretaries of states would be the nodal agency at the state level.
- NGT directed the Ministry of Environment to consider a policy for giving environmental awards to outstanding persons (natural and juristic) and institutions or states and introducing “dis-incentives” for non-compliant states.
- The Central Monitoring Committee may consider identifying experts, best practices and models for use of treated water, including plan to supply untreated sewage for a price or otherwise so that the concerned needy party can treat and utilise such water as is reportedly being done at Surat in Gujarat, Nagpur in Maharashtra and Bhilwada in Rajasthan or any other place.
- Use of polluted water in irrigation is a threat to the health of human beings apart from the aquatic flora and fauna. Hence it is necessary to have a regular hygienic survey of the rivers particularly with reference to pathogenic organisms having an impact on human health directly or indirectly and It is necessary to note that biological health of the rivers is an important aspect.
- There has to be a regular study of the Indian rivers with regard to biological health and its diversity.
The NGT has issued the order after taking note of the article “More river stretches are now critically polluted: CPCB” in the Hindu.
The Uttarakhand High Court has recognized the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as so-called living entities. It is for the first time any court in India has recognized a non-human as a living entity.
The two rivers are sacred for the Hindus, sustain millions of people in the country but have seen years of damage at the hands of humans.
The HC Division Bench comprising Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma gave a landmark judgment while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by one Mohammad Salim in 2014.
Uttarakhand HC verdict
- Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams are declared as legal persons [or] living persons in order to protect the recognition and the faith of society.
- They will have the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve them.
- State government failed to fulfil its responsibility regarding the rivers. Central government must constitute Ganga Management Board to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining these rivers.
- The Director, Namami Gange project and the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand have been charged to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers and their tributaries.
What does it means?
In India, animals, for instance, are not considered living entities by law. Only humans are. But recognizing these rivers as a living entity, grants them new legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India. Thus, they have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed and destroyed. They also can be parties to disputes as their rights can be used to protect the interests of the rivers. It also means that if someone pollutes these rivers, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.
- Earlier in March 2017, New Zealand Parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as ‘legal person’, making it first river to get this status.
- Ecuador was first country to recognize Rights of Nature in its Constitution adopted in September 2008. The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter: Rights for Nature.