Slackness reproved

Sunday 15 January 2006

Gujarat HCasks authorities to get serious on Kharicut pollution

the Gujarat High Court (hc) has severely indicted the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (gpcb) for the Kharicut canal pollution. A division bench comprising justices D H Vaghela and D N Patel observed that the gpcb had failed to deal with the canal pollution "with the seriousness it deserves". The bench sought the intervention of the Union ministry of environment and forests.

The order comes after the court initiated sou moto proceedings on receiving a letter from Paryavaran Mitra, a voluntary organisation, on June 2004 regarding illegal discharge of domestic and industrial wastewater, leading to drinking water contamination.

Kharicut canal, originally meant for irrigation, has long been a dumpyard for industrial effluents. Its pollution makes nearby canals and bores yield water coloured yellow, pink or green. During the rainy season the canal overflows and the effluents and waste flood the houses along its banks.

The court found that none of the five common effluent treatment plants along the canal were operating with valid consents from the gpcb. Though the gpcb had served closure notices to 15 units last year, 11 uints continue to operate in violation of the norms.

The court noted that 45 big industries located near the canal were violating the gpcb norms, but no action other than serving show-cause notices was taken. The bench has directed the state government to file an affidavit, through the Union ministry, regarding the failure of the state agencies to control the canal pollution and to take actions against the officers.

The court felt the state agencies had shown callous disregard for their duties and the plight of the people in the area. It noted that the committee looking into the matter, chaired by the state chief secretary, had also failed to improve the situation. The bench stated that resolutions remained on paper, while people continued to suffer.

The court felt that a body other than the gpcb was required to successfully deal with the problem, As the board had not been forthcoming with information about the number of polluting units, recent inspections and the actions it had taken. So the bench asked the Union ministry to depute a competent officer to assist the court.

After hc reproved gpcb for its inaction and "complacent" attitude, the latter has issued notices to 650 industrial units and the Vatva Common Effluent Treatment Plant to close down operations with immediate effect for seven days. However, Mahesh Pandya (main petitioner) of Paryavaran Mitra and the village committees allege that the gpcb is targeting innocent small-scale industries instead of the real, big polluters.

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