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Ganga In West Bengal Declared Unfit For Bathing Due To Untreated Sewage, NGT Warns Of Fines

The entire stretch of the Ganga in West Bengal contains high faecal coliform.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a stern warning to authorities in West Bengal after finding the entire stretch of the Ganga River in the state unfit for bathing due to high levels of faecal coliform bacteria. The NGT, a judicial body tasked with environmental protection, observed that a staggering 258.67 million litres per day of untreated sewage is flowing directly into the river, posing a significant health risk.

This alarming discovery came to light during a hearing regarding the ongoing efforts to prevent, control, and reduce pollution in the Ganga River across various states. The NGT was reviewing a report submitted by West Bengal in response to earlier directives aimed at addressing this critical issue.

Justice Prakash Shrivastava, Chairperson of the NGT bench, expressed deep concern after examining reports filed by the District Magistrates of several West Bengal districts, including North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Nadia, Malda, Hooghly, Purba Burdwan, Howrah, Purba Medinipur, and South 24 Parganas. The reports revealed a lack of adequate sewage treatment facilities across the state, with some districts, like Purba Medinipur, shockingly lacking even a single Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

The NGT has warned the West Bengal authorities of potential fines if they fail to demonstrate significant progress in tackling the issue of untreated sewage flowing into the Ganga.

“On perusal of these reports, we, in general, find that no adequate facilities for treatment of sewage generated per day have been set up and that even the timeline for achieving the target of 100 per cent treatment of sewage has not been disclosed,” the bench, also comprising judicial member Sudhir Agarwal and expert members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad, said.

In an order passed on February 21, the bench said, it was “surprising ” that not even a single Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) was set up in some districts like Purba Medinipur.

“The condition that has been reflected in these reports is far from satisfactory and shows that 258.67 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated sewage is directly flowing in the river Ganga in the state of West Bengal,” it said.

The green panel directed the DMs of nine districts, through which the river’s mainstream flowed, to file affidavits setting a deadline for achieving the target of 100 per cent treatment of sewage generated every day.

The DMs also have to disclose the manner and extent of utilisation of funds received from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), besides steps taken for demarcation of floodplains in their districts, the tribunal said.

“We also find that the entire stretch of river Ganga in West Bengal contains high fecal coliform, making the water unfit for bathing and thereby not meeting primary water quality criteria,” it said.

The tribunal directed the NMCG to carry out a performance audit of each of the districts on generation and treatment of waste and the extent of pollution each was causing in the river.

“We do not find any progress in the reduction of discharge of pollutants to the River Ganga in any of the districts. Therefore, if in the next report sufficient progress is not shown, then the tribunal may not have any option but to impose Environmental Compensation (EC),” the tribunal said. It ordered the DMs concerned and the NMCG to file fresh reports within eight weeks and posted the matter for further proceedings on May 2. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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