High Court (India)

February 23, 2017

SC Gives Ultimatum To Polluting Industries To Clean Up Or Shut Down

Polluting Industries

The Supreme Court ordered all industries across the country to ensure that their effluent treatment plants are in working condition within three months or to shut down, setting the stage for a nationwide crackdown on factories that pollute the country's water bodies.

Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar stated that "States don't worry about human lives," a stinging indictment of the track record of state governments that have dragged their feet in implementing environmental laws.

In 2015, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had conducted a study by taking a close at pollution levels of 275 rivers and found that there were at least 302 polluted river stretches based on Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution.

The Centre helps state governments with money to clean up major rivers but insists that the separation of powers under the Constitution gives states, and not the central government, the power to act.

"It is an important issue. If the country doesn't act now, it can never be retrieved," the Chief Justice said during a hearing on a public interest litigation that asked the top court to intervene to stop industries from discharging toxic waste into water bodies.

The Supreme Court ruled that the environment secretaries and state pollution boards - that are mandated to enforce environmental laws - would have to ensure the implementation of the court's order. They must also put the data about the quality of treated pollutants discharged into the river online on their respective websites to make monitoring easier.

The pollution boards will have to issue a public notice to all industrial units to confirm that they have a working effluent treatment plant. If an industrial unit does not have a treatment plant in three months, the power connection must be cut and the unit must be shut down.

In industrial areas, local bodies have been told to set up common effluent plants within three years. If a municipality does not have the budget to build one, they can get the factories concerned to foot the bill for the effluent plant.

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