Voicing dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Uttarakhand government to clean the Ganga, the National Green Tribunal on Thursday said the situation was extraordinarily bad and hardly anything effective has been done to clean the river.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel said despite claims by authorities, the work done on the ground for Ganga rejuvenation was not adequate and regular monitoring was required to improve the situation.
"Hardly anything effective has been done. Have you gone and seen the area? I have gone, and there are constructions. It is a difficult situation, but I cannot accept that anything has been done. I cannot. The situation is extraordinarily bad...," the NGT chairperson observed.
The green panel ordered a survey to seek views of the common people about what they feel on ground about the pollution in the Ganga and said the feedback could be given through e-mail to authorities concerned.
"It is the most prestigious river in the country, which 100 crore people respect, but we are unable to protect it. Let us try to make the mechanism as strong and effective as possible," the bench, also comprising justices Jawad Rahim and R S Rathore, said.
The tribunal noted that nine status reports have been filed before it in the last two years, but the results were hardly visible on the ground.
"We are here for the common man. Go on the roads and see the disappointment that they have with the ground situation," the bench observed.
It also directed the Ganga committee in each district, which is headed by the district magistrate, to furnish report to the executive committee, formed by the NGT, about the steps taken regarding implementation of directions once every fortnight.
It also ordered the executive committees to test water samples from the river every month.
During the hearing, the Uttarakhand government told the NGT that it has issued directions for banning use of plastic, sewage waste disposal, construction of public toilets, demarcation of the flood plains and prohibition on mechanised mining of the river bed.
The bench, however, said, "Though the compliance affidavit may claim that all the steps have been taken, the object of the directions in letter and spirit and effect on the ground is not adequate."
"It is not possible to accept that the Ganges is pollution free," it said.
Advocate M C Mehta, who has filed petition for cleaning of the Ganga, told the bench that the water in the river was unsafe for drinking and there was no hygiene in and around river.
He alleged that there was a lot of water pollution and lot needs to be done for municipal and industrial waste management.
The NGT had earlier rapped the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) for not filing a compliance report on the steps taken by the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to clean the river in the stretch between Gomukh and Unnao.
The green panel, in a detailed judgment, had passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate the Ganga, declaring as 'No Development Zone', an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river, between Haridwar and Unnao.
It also prohibited dumping of waste within 500 metres of the river.
The tribunal had said the government has spent over Rs 7,000 crore in two years to clean the Ganga, which still remains a 'serious environmental issue'.
The NGT had also appointed a supervisory committee, headed by the secretary of the Water Resources Ministry and comprising IIT professors and officials from the Uttar Pradesh government to oversee implementation of its directions.
"This committee shall oversee and supervise proper and effective implementation of all the projects under this judgment and will ensure providing of funds expeditiously and finally submit the implementation-cum-progress report to the tribunal every three months," it had said.
An implementation committee was also set up to provide details of the Ganga cleaning projects and the manner and methodology in which these should be implemented.
Meanwhile, Union minister Satyapal Singh told the Lok Sabha on Thursday that it is not appropriate to say that none of the Ganga projects have seen any progress in the past several decades, stating that a network of 2,050 km sewer lines under the Namami Gange project has been set up, besides installing sewage treatment plants.
'It is not a fact that none of the clean Ganga projects have been able to get any headway in the past several decades.
'In fact, sewage treatment capacity of approximately 1,684 million litres per day (MLD) has been created through interception and diversion (I&D) and Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) projects since 1985 in Ganga Action Plan (GAP-I), GAP-II, National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Namami Ganga and other schemes in the towns along Ganga," the minister of state for Ganga Rejuvenation said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
In case of sewer network, 'out of 4,812 km of sanctioned sewer network, approximately 2,050 km sewer lines have been laid till now under the Namami Gange Programme, including the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)', he added.
In response to a separate question, Singh said under the Namami Gange project, work on 34 ghats and nine crematoriums has been completed.
The expenditure incurred on construction of ghats and crematoriums till March 2018 was Rs 159.22 crore, he said.
'Under the Namami Gange programme, 37 projects have been sanctioned for construction of 151 ghats and 54 crematoria in five basin states. Of these 34 ghats and nine crematoria have been completed till date,' Singh said.
Of the 34 completed ghats, 10 are in Uttarakhand, 23 in Uttar Pradesh and one in Jharkhand. All the nine crematoriums are in Uttarakhand.