“Delhi Government is a habitual offender in Yamuna pollution”

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Delhi government is a habitual offender in causing pollution in the Yamuna river.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran was hearing a suo moto case pertaining to the issue of remediation of polluted rivers.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing CPCB, contended before the bench that the department is in the middle of collecting data on various factors associated with pollution in Yamuna and it will be filed very soon. “Delhi is a habitual offender for pollution in Yamuna,” Bhati submitted before the top court.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, amicus curiae in the matter, submitted before the bench that as on January 18, the water quality is excellent, as the ammonia content is 0.3 ppm, and insisted if this can be maintained consistently. Praising the Haryana government, Arora submitted, “They have brought ammonia to a good level the acceptable point is 0.9 ppm.” She emphasised this is a matter of drinking water for Delhi.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing Haryana government, submitted that petition filed by Delhi Jal Board was not maintainable, as there were many facts which are in dispute. The Chief Justice replied, “What is the problem in making an order that the present levels must be maintained?”

Divan urged not to make this observation, as problems connected with water pollution emerge from Delhi. He added that Delhi government is wrong on pinning the blame on Haryana. The bench gave one week’s time to Haryana to file a counter to Delhi Jal Board’s plea.

The bench also directed the committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on river monitoring to submit its report to the court and made it a party in the case.

On January 13, the Supreme Court had said pollution-free water forms the basic right under the constitutional framework and took suo moto cognisance on the issue of contamination of rivers by sewage effluents.

The top court said “We deem it appropriate at this stage to start with the issue of contamination of river Yamuna.” The observation from the top court came on a plea by Delhi Jal Board citing increased ammonia levels in Yamuna due to discharge of pollutants. The top court observed that the plea highlights an issue of great significance and consequence not only for general public but all living beings dependent upon open surface water.

The bench said the right to clean environment and further, pollution-free water has been protected under the broad rubric of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21.

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