The Man Who Fought To Save The Ganga
32-year-old legal battle behind NGT’s ‘Clean Ganga’ push.
Three decades ago, MC Mehta learnt that the Ganga had caught fire.
“It was astonishing. So, I went to Haridwar to find out how water can catch fire,” Mehta said in a Skype interview with BloombergQuint. Effluents in the Ganga had risen to such a level that a spark was enough to trigger flames that were “20-30 feet in high and took 30 hours to extinguish”.
That prompted the lawyer and environmental activist to file a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court in 1985 to save the river. The case wound its way through various courts in the country. In 2014, the apex court transferred it to the National Green Tribunal.
After a 32-year-old legal battle, the NGT on Thursday, among a slew of directions, ordered a Rs 50,000 penalty for dumping waste in the river.
This is the only national river in the country and if it cannot be cleaned, how can we claim to be a mighty nation. We can reach Mars and the Moon but cannot clean the Ganga?MC Mehta, Lawyer And Environmental Activist
So is the fight over now? Mehta says the challenge continues until government agencies start enforcing the judgement.
He is optimistic, though, that the Narendra Modi government will follow through with its promised push for a clean Ganga. “It is on this promise that the central government was formed,” he says. “125 Members of Parliament were from around the Ganga basin. It’s not about which party is ruling but political and executive will is required.”
Highlights Of The NGT Order
- Dumping of waste prohibited within 500 metres from the river
- Penalty of Rs 50,000 for dumping waste in the river
- Sewage treatment plants to be set up within two years
- Uttar Pradesh government to shift tanneries within six weeks
- Guidelines to be formulated for religious activities on the banks