Vrindavan, 2017.09.19 (VT): In a recent order, the Allahabad High Court has placed great pressure on the government to rectify the sewage situation in Vrindavan. It has also clarified the current situation on the Yamuna floodplain, which for the last several weeks has been shrouded in rumour.
Court orders solution to the sewage situation
With all the focus on the floodplain, it is a little-known fact that the sewage situation of Vrindavan is bundled together with the demolition case. The case, which has been pending since 2010, is part and parcel of the complaint against the half-moon bridge made by Shri Madhumangal Shukla on behalf of the BVHA.
The Municipal Comissioner reported to the court that Mathura and Vrindavan generate approximately 120 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of sewage. This is more than double the current maximum capacity of the existing sewage treatment plants (STPs), which is only 56.5 MLD.
The High Court’s order, under the Honorable Justices Arun Tandon and Ritu Raj Awasthi, reveals a great deal of information about the lack of sewage treatment facilities Vrindavan.
As early as 2010, the local government requested the State for funding to create additional STPs. However, the request was never even answered. The order further states that in 2014, the Chief Engineer of the Jal Nigam (Water Department) sent a detailed project report for the same on January 10th, 2014, but that was ignored by the State government as well.
High Court warns of possible FIR against Government officials
In a scathing conclusion, the High Court has written, “What logically follows from the aforesaid affidavit is that at least nearly 70 MLD of sewage water has been falling into River Yamuna by […] Mathura-Vrindavan for decades together.
“The U.P. Pollution Control Board and the State Government, including its highest officer responsible for ensuring that the river Yamuna is not polluted by untreated dirty water, continue to sit silent in the matter.”
The High Court went on to remind the government that, following the 1988 ruling by the Apex Court in the case of MC Mehta vs. Union of India, that it is “the responsibility of every local body to ensure that untreated sewage water does not enter the rivers.”
The High Court then proceeded to warn the respondents (ie. the responsible government officials) that FIRs may be filed against them for inaction.
“We, therefore […] issue notices to respondent numbers 6 to 9 [specifically the Special Secretary of the Department of Urban Development, the Pollution Control Board, the MVDA and the Municipal Comissioner of Mathura-Vrindavan, Dr. Ujjwal Kumar] to show cause as to why this Court [should] not direct lodging of a first information report [FIR] against all the responsible in terms of the provisions of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 for continuous discharge of 70 MLD untreated sewage water into river Yamuna,” said the Court.
Illegal Constructions Still Coming Down
The recent order by the Allahabad High Court also sheds some much-needed light on the Yamuna floodplain.
Earlier the Court had ordered fifteen demolitions to be done in fifteen days. Thereafter, a hearing was to be held in order to hold the government accountable.
With the completion of the first phase of demolitions and the subsequent hearing, there was a short lull in the process. This lead to to mistaken reports that the demolitions had been cancelled altogether. However, the second phase, consisting of 15 more demolitions, will soon begin.
The demolitions will continue in groups of 15 until all the illegal buildings are destroyed.
In its latest order, the High Court acknowledged receipt of the MVDA’s affidaivit, which states that the initial 15 buildings have been destroyed.
The order goes on to say, “Another 15 [constructions] shall be demolished within 15 days as per the [affidaivit] dated 23rd August, 2017.”
Legal Complaints Rejected
Following official complaints submitted to the court by several parties whose property was destroyed without any written notice, the order also clarifies the circumstances under which demolition may occur.
According to the court’s previous order, people who constructed on the Yamuna floodplain were issued warnings from 2009-2010. In general, the demolitions begin with those who received the notices first, then move to those who received notices later.
However, the recent order states: “We, however, clarify that if the Development Authority finds that there are other unauthorized constructions [ie, who have not received notices], it can always proceed under Section 27 of the Act, 1973.”
The next hearing is set for September 20th, 2017.
In a separate case, several residents of the Yamuna floodplain requested the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to prevent the government from destroying their property alleging a lack of due process. However their request was turned down the case dismissed.
The resulting order states, “We are not inclined to entertain the […] petition since the petitioner has not stated […] why he is apprehending demolition of house, nor has he placed any material on record to show that the respondent-Authorities are about to or are likely to demolish his house without following due process of law.”