HC raps officials as Sabarmati river remains highly polluted

Centre allocated ₹200 to curb pollution in the river from 2014-15 to 2017-18

Published - October 25, 2021 12:37 am IST - AHMEDABAD:

An outside view of Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad. File

An outside view of Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad. File

Gujarat’s Sabarmati river remains highly polluted despite the spending of nearly ₹200 crore that the Centre had allocated to curb pollution in the river from 2014-15 to 2017-18. But the situation has only worsened, inviting wrath from the High Court.

The Gujarat High Court has reprimanded the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) for the pollution on the Sabarmati riverfront, and admonished that officials accountable for the functioning of laboratories in sewage treatment plants (STP), who failed to keep a check on polluted water dumped into the riverfront, will be “dealt with strictly”.

The High Court observed that the root cause of pollution in the Sabarmati was the lack of accountability on part of the authorities, as there appears to be a nexus between the officials and industries that discharge untreated effluents into the river stream, polluting its water.

The Division Bench of Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Vaibhavi Nanavati is hearing a suo motu petition on large-scale pollution in the river due to the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluents. The court has also constituted a joint task force (JTF), which submitted its report highlighting the failures of STPs and effluent treatment plants.

The JTF brought out systemic flaws in the running of STPs. The Bench has learnt that the laboratories inside STPs across the city, which were supposed to keep a check on the water dumped into the Sabarmati river, were almost non-functional.

The JTF and the Amicus Curiae Hemang Shah submitted that the Sabarmati riverfront was in poor state due to the “legal” as well as the illegal release of untreated industrial effluents and sewage water in Ahmedabad city.

A JTF member and leading environmental activist Rohit Prajapati told the court that the treatment plants were not functioning properly and there is no monitoring system in place. He suggested that while the civic body can outsource the functioning of treatment plants, it must not outsource their monitoring, and there must be continuous monitoring of the functioning of the treatment plants.

“Effluents and sewage from industrial units are continuously being discharged into the Sabarmati river. Despite all this, industrial units have been provided legal permission to carry out these activities,” Mr. Prajapati submitted, demanding strict action against industries that violated environmental norms.

This is not for the first time the issue of critical levels of pollution in the Sabarmati has surfaced. In 2019, a report by non-governmental organisation Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) revealed that 120 km of the river, before it meets the Arabian Sea in Gujarat, was ridden with industrial effluents and sewage.

Originating from the Aravalli hills in neighbouring Rajasthan, the Sabarmati meets the Arabian Sea in the Gulf of Khambhat area, after traversing a distance of 371 km, passing through districts like Udaipur in Rajasthan, and Aravalli, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad and Kheda in Gujarat. It has a total catchment area of 21,674 sq. km.

The Sabarmati is a seasonal river with its flows dominated by the monsoon, with little or no flow post-monsoon, as both Rajasthan and Gujarat, from where it originates, are drought-prone.

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