NEW DELHI: Taking note of its internal report which showed severe negligence on part of municipal bodies in managing solid waste, the central pollution watchdog has issued notices to civic authorities of 184 cities/towns across the country asking them to pull up their socks or face action.
Besides, the environment ministry has decided to depute 20 joint secretary-level officers to undertake assessment and periodic review of all 43 Critically Polluted Areas (CPAs) – mainly industrial clusters — across the country to see whether the central action plan is being properly implemented or not to minimize the impact of pollution.
The country’s CPAs include Delhi’s Najafgarh drain basin area, Faridabad, Panipat, Ghaziabad, Noida, Agra, Kanpur, Korba, Ahmedabad, Ankleshwar, Bhavnagar, Vapi, Vatva, Dhanbad, Mangalore, Greater Kochi, Indore, Chandrapur, Navi Mumbai, Chandrapur, Tarapur, Angul Talchar, Ludhiana, Bhiwadi, Pali, Jodhpur, Visakhapatnam, Asansol and Haldia among others.
At present, seven of these CPAs come under a moratorium on consideration of any developmental project for environmental clearance. These include Ankleshwar and Vatva (Gujarat), Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Pali and Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Vellore (Tamil Nadu) and Najafgarh drain basin (Delhi).
Under the notices to civic authorities, municipal commissioners have been asked to complete all civic formalities and “seek consent” under the Water Act within 60 days to set up sewage and solid waste management facilities.
“Once they finalize the plan and get the required consent in two months, the Centre will pitch in to help the state in setting up these facilities in a time-bound manner,” an environment ministry official said.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in its notices, also asked civic bodies to statutorily comply with provisions of the Water Pollution Control Act and rules relating to Municipal Solid Waste Management. “These directions under the Act are statutory and non-compliance of these directives will attract legal proceedings under the law,” it said.
If the local officers fail to adhere to dos and don’ts under the existing laws and dither on complying with the notices of the central pollution watchdog, they will be deemed to be guilty under the Water Act and the Environment Protection Act and will be liable to be proceeded against in a court of law.
“An officer will, however, not be liable to any punishment if he/she proves that the offence was committed without his/her knowledge or that he/she exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence,” the official said while explaining the action which may be taken against erring officers.
The CPCB swung into action after it observed that waste dumped unscientifically into landfills was causing serious environmental damage including water and air pollution. It also noted that majority of the civic authorities did not have a systematic, time-bound action plan for management of municipal work.
Highlighting these action, environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign could not happen without the wholehearted participation of municipal/civic corporations and gram panchayats.
“We are finalizing Waste Management Rules and will be publishing these Rules by the year-end. Our inspection has brought to the fore a dismal picture of negligence by some municipalities towards municipal Solid Waste Management,” Javadekar said in a statement.
On critically polluted areas, the minister said, “We have provided transparent processes, done away with delays and enabled ease of doing business for responsible businesses. Now, our thrust will be on compliance.”
Issuing notices to civic authorities of 184 towns, the CPCB rued that the municipal authorities have not given due attention for ensuring proper management of domestic sewage and municipal Solid Waste. “The sewage is disposed off into rivers, lakes or allowed to seep into the groundwater. This has resulted in worsening of groundwater quality and caused many water-borne diseases”, it said.
Accordingly, the pollution watchdog directed the civic authorities not to dispose off untreated sewage into the river or any water bodies and set up set up Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) of adequate capacity and provide sewerage system to cover the entire urban areas.
The municipal authorities have also been asked to submit a time-bound action plan for proper collection, treatment and disposal of sewage. “Such plan shall be submitted by the municipal authority to the state pollution control board (SPCB) with copy to the CPCB within a period of 90 days”, it said.
-The Times of India