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Sabarmati 'cleaned up' swimming pool style: Untreated effluents discharged in river

Gujarat CM overseeing Sabarmati riverfront clean-up drive on June 5, 2019
Counterview Desk
 In a fresh letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, senior Gujarat environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have taken strong objection to the recent clean-up drive of the about 11.3 km stretch of Sabarmati riverbed undertaken by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), terming it as “swimming pool type clean-up.” The river’s total length is 371 km.
According to them, the clean-up drive took place ignoring the “notice” to take action against Central Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs), sewage treatment plants (STPs), polluting industries, and AMC in view of “dangerously very high” Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Biological Oxygen Demand(BOD) and zero Dissolved Oxygen (DO) levels observed in the water of the river.
Pointing out that the concerned “main officers of the authorities” failed in in their duties to “prevent the river pollution even after repeated letters and complaints sent to them”, as directed by the Supreme Court in its Order, dated February 22, 2017, in Writ Petition (Civil) No 375 of 2012, against all polluting industries for pollution in the river, the letter states, the “consistent violation” of apex court order, which amounts to contempt of court.

Text of the letter:

In our letter, dated April 1, 2019, we have clearly stated that the stretch of the Sabarmati River in the Ahmedabad city, along the entire river, is dry, and within the Riverfront Project stretch, it is brimming with stagnant water. In the last 120 kilometres, before meeting the Arabian Sea, it is “dead” and comprises of just industrial effluent and sewage.
Our joint investigation reports with Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), dated March 12, 2019, are shocking and reveal the disastrous condition of the Sabarmati river in and around Ahmedabad district and about 120 kilometres downstream.
The Sabarmati Riverfront has merely become a pool of polluted stagnant water, while the river, downstream of the riverfront, has been reduced to a channel carrying effluents from industries from Naroda, Odhav, Vatva, Narol, and sewerage from Ahmedabad city.
The drought like condition of the Sabarmati river, intensified by the Riverfront Development, has resulted in poor groundwater recharge and increased dependency on the already ailing Narmada river.
The investigation raises fundamental questions against both, the polluting industries that discharge their untreated effluents into the Sabarmati river, and AMC that discharges their poorly treated and untreated sewerage into the Sabarmati river.
Actually, we should not allow at all any discharge of even so-called treated effluent and sewerage into the river stretch where river is dry. This amounts to murdering the river and it is a criminal offence on the part of the concerned industries, concerned authorities, the Government of Gujarat, and the State of Gujarat.
We demand in our letter dated April 1, 2019 that:
  • GPCB immediately issues closure notices to all the defaulting industries located in Ahmedabad industrial clusters, in implementation of the Supreme Court Order dated February 22, 2017.
  • GPCB immediately issues closer notices to all the defaulting CETPs of the Ahmedabad industrial cluster, in implementation of the Supreme Court Order dated February 22, 2017. 
  • GPCB immediately issues notice to the Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad to ensure compliance by all STPs in the area. 
  • GPCB files criminal cases against the all owners/directors of the defaulting polluting industries, the officers of the CETPs, and the Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad. 
  • MoEFCC should not allow at all any discharge of even so-called treated effluent and sewerage into the Sabarmati river stretch where river is dry. This amounts to murdering the river and it is a criminal offence. 
  • GPCB investigates and prepares further detailed reports about the ground water contamination as well as contamination of the food grains, vegetables, and fodder. 
  • Ensure Interim Exemplary Monetary Compensation along with medical services to the farmers and villagers who have suffered from the surface water and groundwater pollution.
  • Immediately pay Interim compensation per season per acre to the farmers who are forced to use contaminated Sabarmati River water and groundwater for irrigation of agricultural land and, hence, are facing several severe health and related socio-economic problems. 
  • Appoint a competent interdisciplinary committee of officials and field experts to assess the ongoing and past damages to quantify the real compensation payable to the farmers for the damage done. 
  • Implement, in letter and spirit, the Order, dated February 22, .2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi Order, dated March 8, 2018 and February 19, 2019, in Original Application No 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors). 
Instead addressing the main concerned issues AMC has taken up clean up drive, which looks like swimming pool clean-up.
Untreated effluents discharged into Sabarmati riverbed
It is unfortunate that many so-called consultants and experts consider the River merely a channel carrying water or affluent. Moreover, Sabarmati River now renamed as “Sabarmati Riverfront” or “Swimming Pool” along the Riverfront Project areas.
Pumping water from Narmada canal into Sabarmati river does not really work to rejuvenate her. We, as a society, tried to dry her out and wherever we could not we severely polluted her. Sabarmati river has been made a dumping ground for industrial effluent and sewage. Why should treated or untreated effluents be dumped into her? The Government of Gujarat and AMC, through Riverfront, have apparently tried to kill her.
We should truly revive and rejuvenate Sabarmati river by using ecological restoration science and techniques and begging by dismantling the Riverfront Project by allowing her to touch the soil of the banks and immediately stopping any dumping of industrial effluent and municipal sewage into her.
The misconceived Sabarmati Riverfront Project is the most visible and has also been most criticized by various experts and concerned citizens. If Ahmedabad, the biggest city of Gujarat, takes the lead in correcting past mistakes and doesn’t throw good money after bad money, it will provide a much needed precedent to emulate for other cities and their misconceived river/water front projects. The time is now, legally and morally.
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*Copies of the letter sent to Dr Susane George Karumanchery, Nodal Officer (CETP/STP/ETP), MoEFCC; chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), member secretary, CPCB; Ajay Aggarwal, additional director and nodal officer (CETP/STP/ETP), CPCB; chief secretary, Government of Gujarat (GoG); additional chief secretary, Forest and Environment Department ,GoG), chairman, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB); member secretary, GPCB; zonal officer, CPCB, Vadodara; Municipal Commissioner, AMC; collector, Ahmedabad district

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