Chandigarh, March 20: The Monitoring Committee set up by the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday directed the state Government to effectively check the menace of river pollution in a time bound manner. The Committee also fixed a deadline of one month for the same and pointed out it would undertake on the spot inspection at vulnerable points to evaluate the progress in this regard. 

The Committee headed by Justice (Retd.) Pritam Pal specifically directed the officers of nodal departments to ensure timely implementation of the action plan and categorically said no laxity would be tolerated at any cost. He further emphasised that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ against pollution and polluters and the officers concerned must keep a close vigil at each and every ‘entry and exit’ point from where the untreated effluent was being flown into main rivers. The Chairperson clearly stated that strict action would be initiated against the violators as per the provisions of water and air pollution acts as a deterrent for others. The Committee also appealed the people to extend fulsome support and cooperation to the Punjab government to stamp out pollution from the state. Likewise, the committee also solicited assistance and participation of various social, religious, voluntary and non-governmental organizations for this noble cause.

While presiding over first meeting of the committee organised by Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Punjab here at Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration to review the progress of implementation of Action Plans for river Beas and Satlej, the Chairperson underscored the need to launch coordinated and concerted efforts against water pollution especially in the catchment areas of these rivers in the state. The committee along with Officers of Local Government, Environment and Pollution Control Board would visit all the spots affected by pollution from ‘origin to tails’ after one month to inspect the progress in this regard, he added.

Stressing the need to keep 24X7 surveillance over the pollution scenario in river Beas, Satluj especially in the catchment areas of Budda Nullah, Ludhiana and Kali Bein, Jalandhar due to unchecked flow of untreated effluents in terms of industrial and chemical waste, the Chairperson said that this had resulted in alarming situation turning into health and environment hazardous especially in Malwa belt of the state.

Principal Secretary Environment and Climate Change Rakesh Verma apprised that there were 44 Sewerage Treatment Plants monitored in the month of January, of which 23 were compliant while 21 were non compliant. He further informed that common effluent treatment plants were under different stages commissioning at various sites in Ludhiana including Bahadurke Road, Focal Point, Tajpur road besides for electroplating industrial units and Leather Complex in Jalandhar.

On the issue of operation and maintenance of STPs and CETPs the committee observed that there should be dedicated funds in the Urban Local Bodies for such works, so that the mechanism of treating water could not be affected.

Giving details regarding functioning of Effluent Treatment Plants of Industries, Mr. Verma said that there were 445 industries requiring ETPs near Satlej river of which 44 industries were monitored out of these 27 were in compliant category and 17 were in non compliant. On the other, near Beas river there are 21 industries requiring ETPs and all are in compliant category. He said that the department had taken action against the non-compliant units 8 were sealed/power supply disconnected, one unit was closed, show cause notice issued to three units and action against 5 was under process. He informed that Environment Department had chalked out a comprehensive plan for rivers namely Beas, Sutlej and Ghaggar besides plan for clean air.  

Expressing deep concern over the health issues due to severe contamination of water caused by inflow of untreated effluents to rivers, the noted environmental activist Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal said that there were blatant violations of water act as none follows the prescribed norms, which should be adhered to in letter and in spirit for larger public interests. He also revealed that the quality of life of villagers residing across the banks of Kala Sanghian drain was adversely impacted due to severe pollution. He also advocated that the treated water also of village ponds should be utilised for irrigation purposes.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board Chairman Satwinder Singh Marwaha pointed out that Rs. 7 crore was needed for seamless operations of Water Quality Monitoring System by installing requisite mechanism at 10 different sites across the state.

Former state Chief Secretary S.C. Aggarwal, who is also the member of the committee, impressed upon that all STPs should be made functional at the earliest and emphasised to keep a close tab over the day to day progress.

Prominent amongst those present in the meeting included Members of Committee J Chander Babu, Babu Ram, Director Rural Development and Panchayats Jaskiran Singh, Director Information and Public Relations Anindita Mitra, Additional Commissioner Ludhiana Municipal Corporation Sayyam Aggarwal and officers of various departments.

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