Immersing idols in Ganga or its tributaries, to attract Rs 50,000 fine

The centre has issued a 15-point directive to states, asking them to check pollution in the Ganga river and its tributaries during the festive season and impose a fine of Rs 50,000 for the immersion of idols

The director-general of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, has issued a directive dated September 16, 2019, stating that no idol immersion should be allowed in the Ganga river and its tributaries. The directive also asked state government officials to submit an action-take report, within seven days after the end of festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Vishwakarma Puja, Dussehra, Deepawali, Chhath Puja and Saraswati Puja.

If anyone is found violating the order, ‘Rs 50,000 as environment compensation should be levied, collected and deposited with state pollution control boards’, the directive said. It has asked district magistrates to enforce the directive.

“River banks and ghats should be cordoned-off and barricaded, to prevent any stray immersion of idols in the rivers or its banks. Adequate arrangements should be made, for designated idol immersion sites within the municipal area or bank of river Ganga and its tributaries, by constructing temporary confined ponds with removable synthetic liners at the bottom, the directive said.

The NMCG had held a meeting with the officials of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal, on September 12, 2019 and urged for strict implementation of the rules related to immersion of idols and disposal of pooja material into river Ganga and its tributaries.


CPCB pulls up UP authorities over high level of industrial waste in Ganga in Kanpur-Fatehpur stretch

Irked by the high-level of industrial waste in the Ganga in the Kanpur-Fatehpur stretch, the CPCB has pulled up Uttar Pradesh authorities, for not complying with its directions and asked them to take pollution control measures in a time-bound manner

June 12, 2019: In a notice, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has directed the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) to coordinate with concerned authorities, to ensure minimum environmental flow in the Ganga and submit an action taken report by June 15, 2019, while noting that the river in the Kanpur-Fatehpur stretch was not fit for bathing. “It is evident that the Ganga river is polluted in its stretch from Bithoor to Fatehpur, due to discharge of sewage and industrial effluent directly or through drains and tributary river Pandu. Discharge of untreated sewage from towns and industrial effluent from authorised and unauthorised industrial or processing units located in the Ganga catchment, from Bithoor to Fatehpur, are identified as the major potential sources of pollution,” CPCB chairman SPS Parihar said.

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He directed the authorities to take immediate necessary action, to effectively control all polluting sources responsible for pollution in the Ganga river from Bithoor to Fatehpur stretch. “In the interest of rejuvenation of the Ganga river and in exercise of the power conferred under the Water Act, you (UPPCB) are hereby directed to take appropriate measures for compliance and issuance of directions to concerned agencies and industrial units, to ensure implementation of following pollution control measures in a time-bound manner and to submit action taken report along with defined timelines for improvement,” the CPCB chief said in the letter to the UPPCB chairman.

The central pollution body has directed the UPPCB to regularly monitor compliance of industrial units and common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) and ensure that no industrial unit, as well as CETPs operate without complying with effluent discharge norms as notified under the Environment Rules, 1986. “The UPPCB, along with district administration and municipal corporations, shall conduct surveys to prepare inventory of all industrial units operating without valid consent in cities/towns and take necessary action. It shall identify domestic drains and ensure that no industrial unit authorised/ unauthorised discharge its effluent in domestic drain,” it said, adding that the action taken report shall be submitted by the UPPCB to the CPCB, by June 15, 2019.

Ganga pollution: NGT slaps Rs 25-lakh fine on Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal governments

The National Green Tribunal has slapped a fine of Rs 25 lakhs each on the Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal governments, for their inaction in dealing with pollution in the Ganga river

June 3, 2019: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rapped the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and slapped a penalty of Rs 25 lakhs on them, for inaction over continued damage to the river Ganga. It noted that in Bihar, there was practically no progress, as not a single sewage infrastructure project had been completed. Similarly, in West Bengal only three projects out of 22 had been completed and even for Jharkhand, progress was not adequate, it said.

“The states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are not represented, in spite of orders of this tribunal by which we recorded strong disapproval to such attitude of the said states. Such insensitivity in a serious matter, is a matter of concern. We direct the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal to deposit Rs 25 lakhs each, by way of interim compensation for the continued damage to Ganga and inaction of the said states, even in responding to this tribunal, with the CPCB within a month which may be spent on restoration of the environment,” the bench said.

The NGT also said that discharge of effluents is a criminal offence and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to prohibit any polluting industrial activity, instead of partially allowing it. “State of Uttar Pradesh may provide funds to the CPCB for remediation of chromium dumps at Kanpur Dehat, Khanpur and Rakhi Mandi. Proper e-flows may be ensured from the Narora Barrage by the NMCG and the state of UP and compliance status may be furnished. UP may also take expeditious action for removing encroachments, identifying and notifying flood plains on the pattern of the state of Uttarakhand,” it said. The UP chief secretary may personally monitor and ensure a zero-tolerance approach to the pollution of Ganga and take stern action against those responsible for failure, the tribunal said and directed him to file an affidavit before August 7, 2019.

The NGT also noted the submission made by National Mission for Clean Ganga that out of 31 projects undertaken, only four had been completed and work on four projects was still underway. For the remaining work, the timeline is proposed extending up to December, 2021, the tribunal noted and said that such progress can hardly be held to be satisfactory. “We record our dissatisfaction with the progress, particularly after all prescribed timelines are over and no adequate action has been taken against identified polluters, law violators and officers responsible for failure for vigorous monitoring, encroachments and pollution are undisputed. Orders of this tribunal remain uncomplied,” it said.

See also: NGT slams MoEF over failure to submit report, on policy for groundwater conservation

Failure of the authorities is posing a danger to the environmental rule of law, NGT said, adding that continued failure is not only resulting in damage to the environment but also to public health. “Unless prompt and stringent action to control pollution of Ganga is stopped, the tribunal may be left with no option but to recover cost of restoration from officers responsible for the failure and also require their prosecution. Accordingly, Uttarakhand chief secretary may monitor the matter, identify the persons responsible for failure, take credible action and file his own affidavit before the next date,” the tribunal said.

During the hearing, director general of NMCG Rajiv Ranjan Mishra appeared in person and assured that stringent action will be taken for the lapses in monitoring against identified persons within four weeks and compliance of directions of this tribunal will be taken up seriously. With regard to floodplains, the NGT clarified that the distance for no-construction zones, is to be measured from the highest flood line (HFL), at least in the last 25 years. “Such floodplains may be identified with longitude and latitude and no activity may be allowed therein, except raising of plantations and setting up of bio-diversity parks. The concerned states in Ganga river basin may examine whether the responsibility of plantations and administrative control of areas beyond HFL can be handed over to the Forest Department exclusively,” the tribunal said.

Ganga river water unfit for direct drinking, bathing: CPCB

A map released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows that the Ganga river water is absolutely unfit for ‘direct drinking’ and only seven spots from where it passes, can be consumed after disinfection

May 30, 2019: The Ganga river water is absolutely unfit for ‘direct drinking’ and only seven spots from where it passes can be consumed after disinfection, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has said. According to the latest data with the CPCB, most of the Ganga river water in the Uttar Pradesh-West Bengal stretch is unfit for drinking and bathing.   A map released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows high level of coliform bacteria in the river.

Out of 86 live monitoring stations installed in as many locations, only seven areas have been found to be fit for drinking after disinfection process while 78 have been found unfit. The data has been collected by live monitoring stations in the Ganga basin across the country to check the quality of the river water. In the country where scores of people flock to take a dip in the Ganga, which is considered the lifeline of India, the CPCB says the river water is so polluted that it is unfit for bathing, let alone drinking. Only 18 spots have been found to be fit for bathing while 62 areas from where it flows have been found unfit.

Some stretches in Uttarakhand and two spots in West Bengal are marked in green, indicating that the water can be consumed after disinfection while the rest of the river water is unfit for drinking or bathing the whole way till it drains into the Bay of Bengal. The six spots which were found fit for consumption under class A-fit for drinking after disinfection- are Bhagirathi at Gangotri, Rudraprayag, Devprayag, Raiwala- Uttarakhand, Rishikesh, Bijnor and Diamond Harbour in West Bengal. The areas found fit for bathing under class B in river Ganga include – Bhagirathi at Gangotri, Rudraprayag, Devprayag, Raiwala- Uttarakhand, Gharmukhteshwar, Rishikesh, Bijnor, Aligarh and others, including four spots in West Bengal.

Despite several plans in place to clean the river and directions of the National Green Tribunal to tackle river pollution, it seems to be far from reality. Environmental activist and lawyer Vikrant Tongad, who also filed an RTI regarding the condition of the river, said though the government’s efforts were appreciable, it was not enough to tackle the situation. “Efforts can be lauded but certain other measures including public participation and managing agricultural waste generated after using pesticides, are also required. The government had planned to clean the river by 2020 but it cannot be achieved till 2025,” he said.

NGT pulls up National Mission for Clean Ganga over pollution in the river

Even a drop of pollution in the Ganga is a matter of concern and the attitude of all authorities should be stringent, to protect the river, the NGT said, while seeking a concrete action plan on the issue

May 21, 2019: A National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench, headed by chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, pulled up the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) over its action plan for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and said it does not show concrete plans with prompt timelines and efforts in prohibiting pollution.

“The NMCG has not filed the precise information, about the status of projects planned and executed, between Kanpur and Ganga Sagar. Thus, the affidavit of the NMCG is of no assistance. The counsel appearing for the NMCG is not ready and is merely dependent on Praveen Kumar, director (technical), NMCG who is also not competent to assist this tribunal. During the interaction, we find his approach to be to help the polluters, instead of remedying the pollution, which is the mandate of law and the orders of this tribunal,” the bench, also comprising justices SP Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan, said.

It asked the NMCG to take remedial action, so that assistance of a suitable person is provided to this tribunal, with precise information, failing which the tribunal may consider coercive measures against it. The tribunal also asked the concerned states to take the matter seriously and assist the bench with precise information, either through senior officers or through counsel. “No counsel is present on behalf of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is the responsibility of all the five states, to ensure that water quality at every point meets the standards and if there is a violation, the violators are proceeded against in accordance with the law by way of prosecution, closure of polluting activities and payment of compensation for damage to the environment. We direct Uttarakhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, to place the status of water quality in the respective states on their websites and update the same on a monthly basis, indicating fitness of water at various places for drinking or bathing purposes. The CPCB may indicate water quality of the Ganga river at boundaries of the said states on its website,” the tribunal said.

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It said, as already directed, flood plains may be duly demarcated, encroachments prohibited and removed, biodiversity parks set up and afforestation undertaken. No amount of wealth generation or commercial or industrial activities can get priority over cleanliness of the Ganga river, it said.

“Any individual or establishment, violating the environmental norms with respect to the Ganga river, must be strictly dealt with under the law and special cells must be created in the concerned states to monitor such action on a daily basis. Such action can be a model to deal with pollution of all other rivers in the country. It is a matter of regret that as per report of the CPCB, 351 river stretches are polluted in the country,” it said.

The tribunal noted that it had directed the chief secretaries of all the states and union territories, to monitor this aspect, along with other important issues. “Till date, chief secretaries or administrators of 32 states and UTs, out of 36 states and UTs, have appeared in person. This tribunal has directed highest level monitoring, to deal with the situation at the state-level, as well as national-level. The Ganga river needs attention at the highest level. We hope that this seriousness will be realised by the concerned states, NMCG and the Ministry of Water Resources and steps will be taken in the right earnestness, in compliance of order of this tribunal,” it said.

The bench said that every time, progress was being found to be unsatisfactory and hence, it would have no option but to take more stringent measures, unless satisfactory remedial action was taken.

The matter was listed for next hearing on May 29, 2019. The tribunal had earlier said the water of the Ganga river, between Haridwar and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, was unfit for drinking and bathing and expressed anguish over the situation. The green panel had said people drank and bathed in the river with reverence, without knowing that it may adversely affect their health.

National Geographic Society to launch expedition to study plastic pollution in Ganga

An international, all-woman team of researchers will soon embark on an expedition to study plastic pollution in the river Ganga and document the flow of plastic waste from source to sea, the National Geographic Society has said

May 7, 2019: The National Geographic Society has announced an expedition, ‘Sea to Source: Ganges’, which will scientifically document plastic waste in the river and develop holistic and inclusive solutions. “An international, all-female expedition team will study plastic pollution in one of the world’s most iconic waterways – the Ganges River (known locally as Ganga and Padma),” it said. The expedition is likely to begin towards the end of May 2019, in the Bay of Bengal through the Padma River and will end at the source of the Ganges in the Himalayas.

This expedition be done in partnership with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the University of Dhaka and WildTeam, and is part of National Geographic’s journey to better understand and document how plastic waste travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps around plastic flow, load and composition, it said in a statement. The team plans to share its expedition experiences real-time on National Geographic’s website (

“The ‘Sea to Source: Ganges’ expedition is the first of several international river expeditions, planned as part of National Geographic’s ‘Planet or Plastic’ initiative, which aims to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean. After an initial expedition to the Ganges, the team plans to replicate the expedition after the monsoon season, to capture seasonal variations,” it stated. The expedition team of 15 scientists and engineers, co-led by National Geographic fellows Jenna Jambeck and Heather Koldewey, will work with international partners to provide science-based, actionable information, to build capacity for local solutions.

See also: Maharashtra has the highest number of polluted rivers in the country: NGT

“National Geographic is deeply committed to advancing solutions to the plastic waste crisis. These expeditions are a tremendous opportunity, to mobilise a global community of experts, to help tackle the problem,” Valerie Craig, vice-president of operating programmes at the National Geographic Society, was quoted as saying in the statement. “I am particularly delighted that this expedition elevates women in science, technology, engineering and math around the world, to help us understand how plastic moves through our waterways and ultimately to find ways to prevent plastic waste from entering the ocean,” she said.

According to the National Geographic Society, the ocean is clogged with an estimated nine million tonnes of plastic every year and rivers play a significant role in this problem, as they act as conveyor belts for plastic debris flowing into the ocean. As part of its commitment to reduce plastic pollution from entering the ocean, the team aims to be environment friendly and single-use-plastic-free throughout the expedition. The expedition will focus on plastic pollution in three key areas: land, water and people. “The team working on the land portion will collect data on the input and use of plastic in communities, how waste is collected and managed and will quantify the movement and type of plastic in the environment. The water team will study plastic pollution in the air, water, sediment and species in and around the river,” the statement said.

The socio-economic team will survey local communities along the expedition route, to better understand awareness and perceptions of plastic pollution, household plastic waste management and local solutions for addressing this issue, the Society said. During the expedition, the team will work with local stakeholders to translate its scientific findings, using story-telling to raise awareness about plastic pollution and drive behaviour change, it added.

“This is the largest ever all-female National Geographic expedition; the first time there has been a four-dimensional comprehensive investigation of the plastic pollution issue at this scale across sediment, water, air and land,” the statement said.

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