The Supreme Court on Wednesday said Ganga cleansing programmes have been going on for over three decades with almost no impact on the ground and wondered whether the government wanted to do something during this tenure or would it spill over to the next term.
The apex court sought fresh response of the government about the steps undertaken by it to implement the stage-wise projects for cleaning the Ganga in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal in six weeks.
"Now the point is, it is going on for last 30 years. You (Centre) tell us as to what is the verifiable progress in this regard," a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said when the counsel for the Centre submitted that ‘things are happening’.
"One hundred and eighteen more towns have been identified by this government. Things have started moving. They (municipalities and other concerned authorities) have been told to wake up," Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before the bench that also comprised justices R K Agrawal and Adarsh Kumar Goel.
The bench, which had earlier asked the Centre to come out with a ‘stage-wise plan’ to clean the river, sought additional specific response on 70 sewage treatment plants (STPs), which are at various stages, likely to come up in the five Ganga basin states.
"If you have a financial problem, we cannot solve that. All that is required is that you go ahead with the projects and if there is any bottleneck, you can come before us.
"Don't take it (PIL) as an adversarial litigation. Do you want to say that this has to be done during this government or in the next term of the government?" it asked.
"We propose to conclude it by 2018," the SG replied.
The bench, in its order, asked the government to apprise it of the fresh status of the 15 proposed STPs whose bidding process were to be concluded and said "if there was delay in the bidding process, then the reasons be also indicated."
It further said the report, which is likely to be filed by the consortium of Indian Institutes of Science on Ganga River basin management by January end, should be submitted too.
The bench also noted the submission of the solicitor general that the consortium of seven IITs was expected to address the issue relating almost 100 km-long eco-sensitive zone ranging from Gomukh to Uttarkashi and listed the PIL for hearing after six weeks.
Earlier, the court had expressed satisfaction over Centre's blueprint to clean river Ganga but had sought response on how it plans to implement the ambitious policy.
The Narendra Modi government had earlier placed before the court a blueprint of short, medium and long term measures involving thousands of crore of investment to restore the glory of the holy river.
The Centre had submitted that it has identified 118 towns situated on bank of Ganga as the first target to achieve total sanitation including water waste treatment and solid waste management.
"It is respectfully submitted that in order to ensure rejuvenation of the Ganga, the action plan envisages phase wise timeline in terms of short term -- a period of three years, medium term -- a period of next five years and long term -- a period of next 10 years and more," the affidavit, filed in the Supreme Court, had said.
It had said the timelines for completion of ongoing projects has also been prepared after consulting five Ganga basin states which are primarily responsible for implementing the projects for rejuvenation of the 2,500 km long river.
"In the first stage, 118 towns have been tentatively identified for necessary interventions to achieve total sanitation targets including water waste treatment and solid waste management," it said.
"So far seven river front locations have been identified by Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation for development of Ghats at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi".