mplementation of the Order of High Court for Alleviating Pollution from Kharikut Canal by Paryavaran Mitra
Intervention to ensure implementation of high court order to control pollution in GIDC estates in Ahmedabad and clean up the Kharikut canal constructed for the purpose of irrigation
Development & expanding industrialization have taken each other in synonymy. It is a deplorable reality that blooming industrial units, both small & large, while providing employment opportunists, also pollute the environment. This pollution is harming all components of our environment- air, water, land, and as an obvious consequence, health & well being of human beings and of all other living forms.
India, like most other countries is facing the brunt of unchecked industrial pollution. The constitution of India takes note of the need to protect environment & endows the state with responsibility to protect environment.
Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life- The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.
Article 51-A (G)
It shall be the responsibility of each citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.
The efforts & responsibilities of protecting the environment was given legal framework with enactment of such laws as Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and finally The Environment Protection Act in 1986
Gujarat has been seeing colossal industrial growth & now invites vast industrial investments from across the globe. In the process however, there are environmental fallouts which are left unaddressed.
Ahmedabad city saw sprouting of many industrial units, particularly in the three GIDC estates of Odhav, Naroda, Vatva areas of the city after 1960. These industrial units have been emanating pollution that has had very serious impact on the residents living in the areas surrounding this GIDC belt. A mega pipeline was built by the municipal corporation in which treated water was discharged by industries. This merged in the Pirana Sewerage Treatment Plant at which was discharged into Sabarmati River.
A main issue has been the pollution of a canal called Kharikut, merging in Khari River, on whose bank these industrial units were set up.
Kharicut canal was built 110 years ago for irrigation and drinking water facilities on outskirts of Ahmedabad district. It spread in two districts – Ahmedabad and Kheda. 10 lakes and 42 villages are dependent upon water flowing in Kharicut canal. Two season crops are harvested with help of water of Kharicut canal especially rice harvesting.
Following is the case of legal battle that consisted of enforcing court orders to stop the pollution of Kharikut canal & activating the government machinery responsible for prevention of pollution by industrial units.
What was the case?
The GIDC belts across Odhav, Naroda, Vatva areas of the city came up in the decade of 1965-1975 wherein more than 2000 factories produce dyes, dyes intermediates, foundries, textile mill, pesticides and fertilizer products. At that point of time there were no laws to protect environment, neither such a concept existed among the government, industries or public, nor was this aspect in much awareness as it is today. Also, economic growth through industrial activity was priority for the government.
In absence of such awareness, policies or laws, these industries started discharging untreated industrial waste in this canal which continued till the canal water could afford to dissolve industrial waste. It than reached a limit where the canal water became saturated & could not dissolve any more the highly toxic & acidic untreated effluents being discharged from industries. Unable of being absorbed by the canal water, the harmful effect of this process began to show when
- The toxic & acidic untreated effluents overflowed into surrounding residential areas and the residents started to complain
- The farmers of villages (which are irrigated by Kharikut canal) started to complain of colored & foul smelling water coming to their fields & affecting their crops.
- Industrial affluent contaminated ground water, bore wells poured out colored & foul smelling water and began to create health & hygiene problems for people.
A farmer P.J. Patel with other farmers filed Public Interest Litigation in Gujarat High Court in 1995 – SCA 770/1995. The High Court ordered for sampling of canal water & it was found to be highly toxic & acidic and harmful. As a result 756 polluting industries of Vatva area was closed immediately
It was landmark pollution related case for Gujarat. The hearing of the went on for 2 years and court delivered landmark judgment in 1997. Some of the features of judgment were:
- Common Effluent Treatment Plant for each GIDC area or cluster of industries in Gujarat
- Common landfill site for each GIDC area or cluster of industries in Gujarat
- Environment Audit scheme for all scheduled industries in Gujarat
- Regular monitoring of industries.
- 27 kms long pipeline known as ‘Mega Pipeline’
- As per Polluters Pay Principle the closed down industries were ordered to submit money of 1% of their last year turnover. The collected fund would be used for pollution control and social welfare work.
Industries again approached the High Court demanding to revoke this order as it led to financial as well as employment losses. The court reinstated the status of these units and forwarded the case to the government recognized & reputed NERRI (National Environment Engineering Research Institute), as to what could be done in such a situation.
NERRI recommended setting up of a Common Effluent Treatment Plant in this GIDC industrial belt. This plant would provide facilities to all units for treating their industrial waste at a cost. The proposed system for working of CETP was:
- Primary treatment of industrial waste would be done by respective units themselves.
- The units would send their industrial waste to CETP for secondary treatment for which the units would pay fees to CETP.
- Criteria for deciding the fees to be paid by individual units would be:
- Volume of industrial waste
- Pollution load contained in the matter sent for treatment (which would be decided after testing the same)
- Thus treated industrial waste would be discharged into Kharikut canal.
- The total cost of CETP would be borne by the central & state government in the ratio of 25% each.
This proposal was accepted by all parties and the setting up of CETP was ordered for in the industrial belt of Odhav, Narol, Vatva & Naroda. The CETP was registered in name of Green Environment Services Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. at Vatva
But unfortunately pollution continued even after this judgment. Industrial units continued to discharge their waste into Kharikut canal and in rainy season situation became worst as colored water flooded in agriculture farm and residential area and logged there for days.
- The units did not give primary treatment to their industrial waste before taking it to CETP for final treatment.
- CETP itself did not complete the treatment as per norms & released untreated water in the canal/pipeline.
- Apart from industrial units there were unauthorized residential colonies on the bank of the canal that too were throwing their garbage in the canal.
- There were holes or breaches made in the canal through which the malpractice of throwing untreated waste in the canal was being carried out.
- Storm water was channelised into Kharicut Canal and residential and industrial units, by making illegal breaches/puncture into the wall of the canal, dispose of storm water as well as sewerage drainage. During peak hours and monsoon period, the manholes at the intersection of mega pipeline overflow resulting into spillage and mixing of sewerage and polluted water. At 31 places polluted water and sewerage water was being drained into Kharicut Canal and solid waste was also dumped by the residents near the canal.Thus pollution of the canal, fields & surrounding areas continued, despite the High Court order to put a stop to this.
- Hence, despite a landmark judgment by the high court, the directions/ orders were not being complied with, there were blatant violations of law & pollution by industrial units in surrounding areas continued.
What was the Strategy & Steps Taken?
Paryavaran Mitra decided to intervene in this matter to follow up on judgment of High Court.
It is important to note that before Paryavaran Mitra initiated action in this direction, and also along the way as the organization worked to invoke legal action in the matter, there were many other parties & individuals registering their grievances against industrial pollution in GIDC estates. Some examples are-
- The Central Laboratory of AMC, which regularly monitors all CETPs in Odhav, Vatva & Naroda areas, wrote to GPCB complaining about the non-compliance by the CETPSs.
- The Central Laboratory also wrote to the chairman of CETP about its irregularities in discharge of untreated water.
- The Central Laboratory wrote to the defaulting industrial units to cautioning them to treat effluents & follow the norms decided by GPCB & AMC.
- The District Registrar of co-operative societies (urban), Ahmedabad, also cautioned CETPs regarding its improper functioning.
- Akhil Bhartiya Pradushan Nivaran Samitiwrote to the Chief Secretary, Gujarat regarding the same matter.
- Various newspapers carried news about this pollution in GIDC estates, wherein people spoke about the problems they were facing due to this.
Hence there was lot of information floating about industrial pollution in GIDC estates in Ahmedabad. However, such individual complains were not impacting a desirable action. Paryavran Mitra strategized the issue and putting together all the available information, approached the high court for legal intervention to ensure implementation its orders for controlling environmental pollution.
The strategy was to make use of available information in various sources, collect information & making use of that information, gathering additional technical & other information, invoking legal response and networking/ alliance building with other groups
The main strategy was to activate judiciary on the matter** and hence, taking the legal recourse as the last resort, after approaching other agencies & getting no result, it was important that court filed suo moto application in the case to be able to bring speedy & effective order. The high court admitting to file suo moto application in this case itself was an important strategic
- Paryavaran Mitra wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court on 29 June 2004 (prior to monsoon season) to take urgent step to follow up its landmark judgment and stop pollution into canal.
- The court transferred the application to Gujarat State Legal Aid Authority (GSLAA) to pursue the matter.
- GSLAA vacillated with the application without any appropriate response & no action at all. Therefore Paryavaran Mitraapproached the court again about this, expressing their dissatisfaction over the response of LASA & asking the court to take a Suo Moto on the case.
- Based on letter of Paryavaran Mitra and some of the newspaper reports, Gujarat High Court entered a suo moto application SCA No. 9618 of 2004 in this case. Later Paryavaran Mitra became one of party in the case.
- In affidavit Paryavaran Mitra represented various proof of pollution including newspaper clipping, irrigation department reports that said that irrigated area is reduced to 495 acre from 9395 acre due to pollution
- Paryavaran Mitra also helped court for technical details of analysis of reports.
Paryavaran Mitra cited following parts of the judgment in its affidavit:
“There have been violations of the High Court of Gujarat. In the order of SCA 770/1995 of Pravinbhai Jashbhai Patel v/s State of Gujarat & others (i) of C it is stated that ‘The respondents will ensure that all unauthorized connections with the Municipal drains from the industrial units are disconnected forthwith’.
Also in order (xiii) of C it is stated that ‘In as much as pollution has been allowed to spread due to the neglect of the state authorities and in order to see that this does not recur, certain amount of accountability is necessary. Time bound directions have been issued in this case in order to ensure that the pollution is contained. If after 31st December 1995 the water in Kharicut canal is not within the GPCB parameters, the state government shall be duty bound to take action against the defaulting units. But if effective steps are found not to have been taken by the state or its agencies because of negligence/ inaction of its officers then the government will be expected to take appropriate action against such officers.
Various newspaper clippings showed that illegal discharge of domestic and industrial wastewater is continued in the Kharicut canal. This leads to water pollution & drinking water contamination in surrounding villages. As it is the main irrigation canal, the wastewater in canal has also continued to damage the agricultural activity in surrounding villages
Direction no. (xii) of the same judgment says ‘Since for the last no. of years pollution has adversely affected the 11 kalambandi villages of Kheda, as also villages of Lali, Navagam, Bidaj, Sarsa, Aslali, Jetalpur, Bareja, Vinzol & Vatva, comprised in Dascroi & Memdavad talukas, a lumpsum payment should be made by the 756 industrial units, calculated at the rate of 1% of their one year’s gross turnover 1993-94 or 1995-96, whichever is more and that amount should be kept apart by Ministry of Environment and should be utilized for the works of socio-economic uplift of the aforesaid villages and for the betterment of educational, medical & veterinary facilities and the betterment of the agriculture & livestock in the said villages. Payment should be quantified by the GIDC within three months and the collection made within two months thereafter.”
With regard to direction no. (xii) of the judgment, Paryavaran Mitra asked:
- Whether money has been collected as per the direction of the judgment?
- How much money has been collected as per the direction of the judgment?
- What is the action plan for utilizing this fund and who is implementing & monitoring the works carried out by the collected money?
- And till date what kind of work has been completed in the above said villages?
- Viksat, Nehru Foundation, formed an Industry Core Group under Sabarmati Stakeholders Forum. The Forum formed a Working Group which constituted of representatives from the industrial sector, GPCB & Voluntary Groups & NGOs. This working group was mandated to undertake a study of Kharikut canal regarding the industrial & domestic waste being discharged in it & to what extent were the high court directives being implemented by GPCB, AMC, CETP and other concerned government agencies. The group visited the canal& GIDC estate in April 2004 & submitted its report, some major findings of which were-
- There was both domestic as well as industrial waste being discharged in Kharikut canal.
- There were open & overflowing drainage in the area.
- Discharge of industrial & domestic waste had contaminated ground water & drinking water in adjoining villages.
- Norms of pollution control were not being maintained in the GIDC estate.
(The report is annexed herewith)
These findings were also submitted to the court for reference.
Outcome & Impact:
- On 25 November 2005 the High Court gave directions for continuous monitoring of bank of canal so that illegal discharge can be stopped in future. In its 15 page intermediate report, court suggested that a committee be formed to look after this matter on permanent basis. Since then Gujarat Pollution Control Board – GPCB have started regular monitoring of the canal.
- Pollution has reduced now since 2 years.
- Following the directions of the court, the holes drilled in the canal were closed & illegal discharge of industrial waste was stopped.
- In its final order in the case dated 30/12/2008, the High Court disposed of the petition saying “Since effective measures are being taken by the Corporation as stated hereinbefore, no further directions are necessary in this group of petitions. Notice is discharged.”
An interesting outcome of this effort was the system of whistle blower, which was meant to involve people in combating pollution.
- After the suo moto disclosure whistle blower system was implemented. According this system person who gives information about factories discharging effluent illegally will be awarded. This system was implemented from 1st December, 2005.
- But this system was not implemented properly because public notices were not given about it so citizens were not aware about Whistle Blower System.
And so, again following up to ensure correct implementation of this order, which was actually a by-product of this order,
- A complain under Section-18 of RTI Act was filed by Mahesh Pandya in Gujarat Information Commission, Gandhinagar. He got an order on 30th June, 2008 that Public authority has to Publish and proactively disclose the particulars of the Whistle Blower System in a prominent manner, within 15 days from the receipt of the order.
- Not satisfied with the answer, he approached the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). CIC also recommended that the public authority should also consider issuing a public notice in the news paper on the particulars of the whistle blower system so that more and more citizens are aware of the Whistle Blower System.
Hence looking at the entire case, the outcomes can also be summed up in following:
- Judicial activism:High Court admitted to file a Suo Moto case on this issue which was an important achievement in terms of the strategy adopted by Paryavaran Mitra. It also gave credence & weight to the case.
- Enforcement of law:The concerned public authorities (GPCB, AMC, and CETP) acted upon the high court order & Kharikut canal could be cleaned up.
- Stopping environmental pollution:The harmful untreated waste from industries & residential colonies was stopped from being discharged into the canal, thus eliminating/ reducing contamination of ground water, as also making available clean potable water & clean water for irrigation in fields.
Socio- Economic-Ecological Gains
This success brought benefits for different people associated with this work.
- Social Benefits:It helped people living in surrounding areas to have clean drinking water, reduction in overflowing sewages and overall a more hygienic place, which directly has a positive impact on their health
- Economic Benefits:Economically it has been beneficial to all parties involved, including the government authorities.
- For farmers whose farms are irrigated by the canal water have an obvious economic gain, as control in the degradation in quality of Khari river water has resulted in having better quality of crops.
- For people living in surrounding areas, better health & hygiene conditions mean less medical spending.
- For such relevant state government authorities as GPCB, AMC and CETP itself, proper functioning of CETP optimizes the resources spent on setting up the same. Therefore if optimum use of CETP is made, it means proper use of government resources.
- Proper maintenance of the structures for pollution control will restrict double spending by the government. If the existing structures in GIDC estates, built with government money, functional properly & in their full capacity, public agencies like GPCB & AMC will not have to spend additional resources in repairs/ maintenance etc.
- Ecological Benefits:As mentioned this compliance has led to such ecological benefits like-
- cleaning up/ reduction in ground water & drinking water contamination
- reduced harmful effects on crops
- Clean water running in Kharikut canal
- A more hygienic living condition, in absence of overflowing sewage flooding the residential colonies.
Overall, an important gain that can be stated is that when laws were enforced on industries and public authorities, and action was taken, it helped to build trust & confidence among people that law can give directions in their favor, even when they take up industries & government authorities. Also it gives strength & confidence to people & other voluntary groups to take such action in future against those who pollute their environment.
Rationale: Why Paryavaran Mitra took up the case?
- Non-compliance with law:There were brazen violations of the orders of a landmark judgment given by the High Court regarding the industrial pollution in GIDC estates n Ahmedabad.
- Environmental Pollution:There were environmental hazards being inflicted by unchecked industrial pollution.
- The poor most affected: Poor people living on the periphery of the city and farmers were being adversely affected in their health, hygiene & livelihood.
Hence, Paryavaran Mitra with its mandate of using legal mechanisms for pollution control & environment protection and working in preference for the poor, the organization decided to intervene in the case.