New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal Thursday took Uttar Pradesh government and civic authorities to task for dilly-dallying on collection and disposal of municipal waste in Gorakhpur district, saying they "cannot play with the health of people."
"What are you people doing for the last 25 years? We are only concerned with environment. You cannot play with the health of people like this. What does governance mean? It is to resolve difficulties of the people. We have enough laws in place. Can you name a single district in the your state which is pollution free," a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar asked Uttar Pradesh government.
The green panel also pulled up Gorakhpur Divisional Commissioner for not appearing before the bench despite the orders of the Tribunal.
When the counsel for Gorakhpur Nagar Nigam tried to explain that the state election commission has assigned him duty till November 1, the bench expressed its displeasure saying, "no election commission can give direction to violate the orders of any court or Tribunal."
"In the history of India, no election commission has ever given order to violate a judicial order. Ask him to be here on October 13," the bench said.
The observations came after counsel appearing for the Gorakhpur Nagar Nigam told the bench that it was planning to construct three sewage treatment plants of 66 MLD each and it has written to the Centre to finance Rs 350 crores required for the plant under the Namami Gange project.
He also informed the bench that two STPs were already functional in the district to treat the waste before they are discharged in the river.
"It is your responsibility to provide clean environment. This is total mismanagement. The plant should either be funded by the district or the state government. We had asked you to invoke polluter pays principle, you didn't do it," the bench said.
The Nigam replied, "people do not want to pay their electricity and water bills even. They start litigation and get a stay from the court. In such a condition, it is impossible for us to invoke such law".
To this, the bench said,"Oh please, tell us one scheme you have undertaken till date to comply with our orders except telling us your difficulties. File status report by the next date or accept that you can't do anything."
On the issue of municipal solid waste (MSW) plant, the Nagar Nigam submitted that the fresh tenders have been issued for construction of a new plant and the last date for the technical bid is October 16.
The Tribunal had earlier directed the UP Pollution Control Board to collect samples from both these STPs in the presence of a representative from Banaras Hindu University's Environment Department and said the samples would be analysed in the laboratories of the Board as well as in those of the university.
The green bench was hearing a plea by Gorakhpur resident Meera Shukla who had contended that the district does not have any STP and entire sewage through different drains was directly discharged into water bodies or river Rapti, a tributary of the Ganga.
She had claimed there were more than 500 deaths in 2014 alone due to high contamination of water and alleged that large sum of money had been spent without any effective measures and control of water pollution.