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SC bench pushes NaMo to tell when he'll finally get around to cleaning Ganga

The Supreme Court Wednesday asked if the Narendra Modi government intended to complete the task of cleaning the Ganga river in its present term or carry it to the next term and keep the issue alive.

The court sought details on the status of various sewage treatment plants (STP) that were being set up to prevent untreated effluents from flowing into the Ganga.

“You want to do it (cleaning the Ganga) in this term of government or the next or keep the issue alive,” the bench of Justice TS Thakur, Justice RK Agrawal and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar as it sought the roadmap of the government’s plan to clean the river.

The court’s query to know the time frame in which the government wanted to accomplish the task of cleaning the Ganga was rooted in its earlier observation that the project to clean the river that was started in 1985 has not resulted in any improvement in the last 30 years.

“It is going on for 30 years,” the court had observed.

“What is that you are going to do that we can monitor?” the court asked Ranjit Kumar. “We want verifiable progress, be it (over a stretch) of 100 km.”

Seeking the government’s response in “layman’s term” and not the “bureaucratic jargon”, the court asked: “In regards to Uttrakhand, what are the directions you have issued? What are the reports and what are the impediments?”

Seeking the status of various STPs which were under construction or in the tendering stage, the court said: “You have already spent Rs.2,000 crore and money is not a constraint for you.”

As the solicitor general told the court that 16 STPs being set up in Uttrakhand would take three years to complete, the court sought the status report on 31 STPs on which work was in progress and on 15 STPs which were in the bidding process stage.

The court also sought a copy of the study being carried by a consortium of IITs on the basin management plan for cleaning the Ganga.

The consortium of IITs is likely to submit its report by the end of January, Ranjit Kumar told the court.

As petitioner MC Mehta drew the attention of the court to the management of eco-sensitive zone of the Ganga from Gomukh to Uttarkashi, the solicitor general told the court that the IIT consortium was studying this aspect as well.

Pointing to the government’s affidavit of Aug 31, 2014, which said some of the STPs were in the bidding stage, the court sought a status report on that also, and hoped that the bidding process must have reached the allotment stage.

Seeking the status report on 31 STPs which were in ongoing stage and 15 in the bidding stage, the court said if bids have not been allotted so far, then what were the reasons for the delay.

The court gave the government six weeks’ time to furnish the details sought by it.

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