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Industrial effluents, sewage killing Sabarmati, Vishwamitri: Apex court order 'violated'

Counterview Desk 

Senior Gujarat-based environmental activists, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, in a letter to the Union environment, forests and climate change secretary, with copies to senior Central and state government officials looking after environment and pollution control, citing pollution in Mahisagar, which flow through Vadodara district, and Sabarmati, which flows through Ahmedabad district, have said that the pollution in the two rivers signifies “disaster in motion”, and may lead to “irreversible damage”.
Claiming it suggests failure to control pollution is contempt of the Supreme Court dated February 22, 2017, in the Writ Petition (Civil No 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), and the National Green Tribunal Principal Bench, Delhi, order dated February 22, 2021, in Original Application No 593 of 2017 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), the letter says, this is the direct result of “untreated and inadequately treated industrial effluent and sewage dumping” in the two rivers and their tributaries.

Text:

We are attaching the photos and videos of – Disaster in motion - taken on February 27, 2021 of the Mahisagar river at Dabka Village Dabka, Taluka Padra, District Vadodara, Gujarat. These photos and videos are raising basic questions for the concerned authorities about their commitment to stop polluting the rivers. The rivers of the Gujarat are dying, and pollution of rvers has reached at irreversible levels.
Repeated letters in detail were sent to the concerned authorities with reference to untreated and inadequately treated industrial effluent and sewage dumping into the rivers like Mahisagar, Sabarmati, Vishwamitri, Damanganga, Bhadar etc. and various other water sources across Gujarat. The concerned authorities will not be able to deny these undisputed ground realities.
There was no appropriate response, from the concerned authorities inspite of non-implementation of the Order, dated February 2, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors).
It is agonizing to bring to light the fact repeatedly that the concerned authorities of Gujarat State are not serious about the implementation of the Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), either in letter or in spirit. Now, we also have Order dated February 22, 2021 of the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) which also clearly states:
“(i) In the light of observations in Para 38 above, Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) may devise an appropriate mechanism for more effective monitoring of steps for control of pollution and rejuvenation of all polluted river stretches in the country. The said mechanism may be called National River Rejuvenation Mechanism (NRRM) or given any other suitable name. NRRM may also consider the observations with regard to setting up of National/State/District Environment Data Grid at appropriate levels as an effective monitoring strategy.
[…]
(iii) The Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs may personally
monitor progress at least once every month and the NRRM
every quarter.
[…]
A copy of this order be forwarded to Secretary, MoJS,
MoEF&CC, GoI, CPCB, Chief Secretaries and State PCBs/PCCs of
all States/UTs by e-mail for compliance.”

Now, even rivers are telling us this:
“Somebody referred to me as a ‘Water Body’.
Everybody knowingly / unknowingly remained silent on that.
Anybody could have objected it.
Nobody did.
But I and my co-traveler (co-habiting) friends have strong objection.
I never referred living human being as ‘Human Body’.
I am not just a flow of water between two banks.
You tried to dry me out. And wherever you couldn't you severely polluted me.
You over exploited me and made me a dumping ground of industries and sewage.
I am more than just / merely a channel carrying water or affluent.
I am also a network of wetlands, tributaries, floodplains, and ponds spread over my basin and estuaries.
I am a natural, dynamic, organic part of a larger ecological system, just like you!
I have ravines flanked on either sides of my banks, which along with the soils and vegetation, are my natural mechanism to retain the additional water, control floods and provide habitat for various species.
I harbor and interact with innumerable organisms like microbes, plants, and animals.
I too am a live being.
I am dreams and despair.
I am poetry and politics.
I am fun and fury.
I am heart and hearth.
I am space and time.
I am you and me.
And, you
You have over exploited / ignored me for your materialistic gains.
I am abused by governments through their policies.
Why should your treated or untreated effluents be dumped into me? How could you say that treated effluents should be dumped into me?
Will you use treated effluents in your houses or industries?
Will you fill your earthen pot with treated effluents?
Are you taking me for granted as your (personal) disposal (bin) of waste?
Yes, I think you have.
You have branded my friends as ‘anti-national, anti-development etc.

Wrath and disaster are / will be my reply to you!
Many a times you, refer to me as ‘Mata, Mother’.
But I know how you have referred to and behaved with your women.
Let’s not test our patience...”

Repeated episodes of Mahisagar river pollution – disaster – irreversible damage is observed, which is prominently visible on every New Moon Day and even during Full Moon Day every month.
It is pertinent to note that the confluence of the Mahisagar river and the ECP channel at ‘J Point’ in the Gulf of Khambhat is in very close proximity to that of the mouth of the Sabarmati river, which also carries high concentration of sewage and industrial effluents, which gets continuously and unabatedly dumped into Gulf of Khambhat, round the clock. 
This confluence is particularly alarming and worrisome as we fear that the tidal activities in the Gulf of Khambhat, drive the highly toxic and polluted waters inland, at the estuaries of the Mahisagar and Sabarmati rivers, causing tremendous risk to the settlements, villages, towns, lives, and livelihoods in that region. It is possible that effluent discharged through river Sabarmati into Gulf of Khambhat may also be finding its way up in the Mahisagar river as indicated by floating chemical foam entering the Mahisagar with the tides.
We believe that this is the result of continuous and voluminous discharge of untreated effluents and sewage over a period of more than three decades, which might form toxic sediments in the stretches along Gulf of Khambhat, particularly near the mouths of the Mahisagar river estuaries which may get agitated and flow inwards, up the river during high tides.
We would also point out that the effluent is currently discharged within the estuaries, and the open sea is miles away from the Gulf of Khambhat.
The Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited’s (VECL) continued non-compliance of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) prescribed norms, terms and conditions of its Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC & A) since its inception. Now, there is no dispute among concerned authorities, industries, and VECL that at ‘J Point’ of Effluent Chanel of VECL the effluent is consistently not able to meet the prescribed GPCB Norms.
The VECL is dumping untreated industrial effluent within the Mahi estuary at J - point, which, we say, is totally illegal and in violation of the Supreme Court Order dated February 22, 2017. Shockingly. the COD at J - point on December 13, 2020 was 4,000 mg/l, on January 13, 2021 it was 1,000 mg/l, and on February 14, 2021 it was 2200 mg/l (norm 250 mg/l). Figures speak for themselves. This is admitted and everyday reality at J - Point.
As if these violations and contempt of the Supreme Court Order, dated February 22, 2017 were not enough, now our entry by road to J - Point has been blocked by the VECL, and it is now a closed site for us, perhaps because VECL wants to hide its non-functioning from us. Even access to Mahi Estuary-sea has been illegally blocked for us by the VECL.
To understand the problem, and in the interest of transparency, we again request you to permit us accesses, which have currently been blocked by the VECL, as we need to view industrial effluent quality data of ECP displayed on digital panels along the ECP, and collect samples at J - Point of ECP.
We are extremely disturbed that the Chief Secretary, Gujarat State; and the Chairman and Member Secretary of the GPCB are openly allowing the VECL to, consistently and admittedly, violate the environment laws of the land. They are also turning a blind eye to the known and admitted violations of the Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order dated Feburary 22, 2021, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors). This is amounts to Contempt of the Supreme Court Order. Therefore, such nonchalant attitude of and non-compliance by VECL and the concerned authorities has led to serious and horrible damage to the Mahisagar river.
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 past joint investigations with GPCB raises fundamental questions against both, the polluting industries that discharge their untreated effluents into the Sabarmati river and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation 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 part of the concerned industries, concerned authorities, Government of Gujarat, and State of Gujarat.
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 a “Sabarmati Riverfront” or an extremely large “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, have dried our rivers out and wherever we could not, we have 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 Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, through the Riverfront Project and illegal dumping of wastes into it, have apparently tried to kill her.
We should truly revive and rejuvenate Sabarmati river by using the best of the ecological restoration science and techniques and by dismantling the Riverfront Project and, thereby, allowing her to touch the soil of her banks and by immediately stopping any dumping of industrial effluent and municipal sewage or wastes into her.
We urge the authorities to take prompt action and investigate the matter in utmost urgency through a technically sound and independent committee of experts, with close monitoring on a daily basis.
If you are unable to stop the pollution and stop the contempt of the Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order dated February 22, 2021, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), say-so in writing.
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of life, livelihoods, and environment in the affected areas.
If you do not act now, your inaction shall be considered as the Contempt of the Court of the Supreme Court Order, dated February 22, 2017, Writ Petition (Civil) 375 of 2012 and may / will result in suitable further action on our part.

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