Ganga in West Bengal Deemed Unfit for Bathing Due to Untreated Sewage, NGT Issues Fine Warning

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a stark warning to authorities in West Bengal following the revelation that the entire stretch of the Ganga River in the state is unsuitable for bathing due to elevated levels of faecal coliform bacteria. This alarming situation has been exacerbated by the discharge of a staggering 258.67 million litres per day of untreated sewage directly into the river, posing a severe health risk.

The NGT, entrusted with the mandate of environmental protection, uncovered this disturbing reality during a hearing focused on efforts to combat pollution in the Ganga River across various states. During the proceedings, the NGT scrutinized a report submitted by West Bengal in response to earlier directives aimed at addressing this pressing issue.

Expressing profound concern, Justice Prakash Shrivastava, Chairperson of the NGT bench, reviewed reports submitted by District Magistrates of several West Bengal districts, including North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Nadia, Malda, Hooghly, Purba Burdwan, Howrah, Purba Medinipur, and South 24 Parganas. These reports underscored a glaring deficiency in sewage treatment infrastructure across the state, with some districts, notably Purba Medinipur, lacking even a single Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

In response to these findings, the NGT has cautioned West Bengal authorities of potential fines if they fail to demonstrate significant progress in addressing the issue of untreated sewage flowing into the Ganga.

The tribunal emphasized the urgent need for adequate sewage treatment facilities and expressed dismay over the absence of STPs in certain districts. It noted that the current situation, wherein 258.67 million litres per day of untreated sewage is discharged into the Ganga, is far from satisfactory.

The NGT’s warning underscores the gravity of the situation and serves as a call to action for swift and effective measures to combat pollution in the Ganga River in West Bengal.

NGT panel, consisting of judicial and expert members, acknowledged the absence of sewage treatment plants in certain districts and stressed the urgent need to address this critical situation. Additionally, the tribunal instructed District Magistrates (DMs) of nine districts, through which the river flows, to provide affidavits detailing deadlines for achieving 100% sewage treatment.

Moreover, the NGT mandated that DMs disclose the utilization of funds from the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the measures taken for floodplain demarcation in their respective districts.

Expressing dismay at the lack of progress, the NGT highlighted the elevated levels of faecal coliform in the Ganga, making the water unsuitable for bathing. The tribunal directed NMCG to conduct a performance audit of each district to evaluate pollution levels and waste management practices.

Failure to demonstrate significant progress may lead to the imposition of Environmental Compensation (EC) by the tribunal. The NGT has instructed concerned DMs and NMCG to submit updated reports within eight weeks, with further proceedings scheduled for May 2.