The National Green Tribunal has directed all states and union territories (UTs) to address gaps in generation and treatment of sewage or effluents by ensuring setting up of a requisite number of functional Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP), Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) and Common and Combined Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP). The National Green Tribunal bench headed by its chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel observed that the timeline for commissioning of all STPs fixed by the Supreme Court, March 31, 2018, has long passed and the top court directed that the State PCBs must initiate prosecution of the erring Secretaries to the Governments, has also not happened.

The NGT, which was directed to monitor compliance and in the course thereof, said: “We direct that compensation may be recovered in the manner already directed in earlier orders, which may be deposited with the CPCB for the restoration of the environment.” The NGT also directed that the unutilized capacity of the existing STPs may be utilized expeditiously and the states/ UTs may ensure that the CETP, ETPs and STPs meet the laid down norms and remedial action be taken wherever norms are not met.

The NGT said that it must be ensured that no untreated sewage and effluent is discharged into any water body. The tribunal said that wherever action plans have not yet been finalized in respect of polluted river stretches or polluted coastal stretches, the same may be completed within one month from today. The execution of action plans may be overseen in the manner already directed in another matter by River Rejuvenation Committees (RCCs). In the coastal areas, the said Committees may be known as “River/Coastal Rejuvenation Committees”.

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The action plans must have provision for budgetary support in the manner laid down by the Supreme Court or otherwise which aspect may also be monitored by the Central Monitoring Committee (CMC), the tribunal said. The tribunal said that the CMC may consider the development of an appropriate App to enable easy filling and redressal of grievances with regard to illegal discharge of sewage and effluents.

It added that the monitoring by the CMC may have the target of reduction of pollution loads and improvement of water quality of rivers and coastal areas. The CMC may also monitor the setting up of the bio-diversity parks, constructed wetlands and other alternative measures to reduce pollution load. The CMC may also monitor demarcation of flood plain zones, the tribunal said adding that the treated sewage water may be duly utilized for secondary purposes by preparing appropriate action plans and reports in this regard to be filed with the CPCB periodically.

The NGT direction came while hearing proceedings in the matter, which was a follow up of the judgment of the Supreme Court dated February 22, 2017, in Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Vs. Union of India, which mandates the establishment and functioning of requisite ETPs/CETPs/STPs. The Tribunal has been mandated to monitor compliance.

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