SC takes up Yamuna pollution, says clean water basic right


New Delhi, Jan 13: The Supreme Court Wednesday said pollution-free water forms a basic right under the constitutional framework as it took suo moto cognisance of the issue of contamination of rivers by sewage effluents. A bench, headed by Chief Justice SA. Bobde, said:

 “We deem it ap-propriate at this stage to start with the issue of contamination of river Yamuna.” The observation from the top court came on a plea by the Delhi Jal Board citing increased ammo-nia levels in Yamuna due to dis-charge of pollutants. The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. 

Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, said 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 court said the right to clean environment and further, pollution tee water has been protected under the broad rubric of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21.

 “Open surface water resources in-cluding rivers are lifeline of human civilisation. In olden days, almost all the human settlements were at the bank of some river Every civil-isation including ours, has shown great amount of gratitude to these life creating resources,” it noted. It observed that one of the major 

causes of water pollution is dis-charge of non-treated/partially treated municipal waste including sewage effluent of cities into rivers.

“Such discharge of human sewage and other pollutants results into deterioration in chemical, physi-cal and biological proper ties of water All these processes lead to degradation of natural environ-ment,”

 it said. The top court added that deteri-oration of quality of fresh water has a direct corelation with the quality of public health and polluted water is a major cause of variety of dis-eases and discomforts. It said that the mandate of law is clear as far as setting up of sewage treatment plants and stoppage of sewage ef-fluents in surface water,

 but it is often found that either the sewage is not treated through aplant before being discharged or the treatment plants are not functional. The top court issued notice to Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. “Notice shall also be issued to Secretary Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Secretary Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India and the Central Pollution Control Board in addition,

 said the top court order and appointed senior ad-vocate Meenakshi Arora as ami-cus curiae in the matter. The top court directed the CPCB to submit a report identifying mu-nicipalities along the river Yamuna, which have not installed total treat-ment plants for sewage as per the requirement or have gaps in en-suring that the sewage is not dis-charged untreated into the river. —t The top court has listed the mat-ter for further hearing January 19. 

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