On June 30, 1997, Rakesh K. Jaiswal of Eco Friends wrote a letter to Justice Girdhar Malviya of Allahabad High Court concerning pollution in Kanpur and requesting his intervention. The letter was treated as Writ Petition (No. 21552/97) under Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court case relating to R.K. Jaiswal (on behalf of Eco-Friends) vs. State of UP and others. The court has issued several important orders as a result of this letter.

December 16, 1997

Court forms monitoring committee: The monitoring committee formed by the court visited Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Mirzapur and Gazipur in the first phase and Hardwar, Dehradun, Rishikesh and various towns of western UP in the second phase. The committee visited various GAP schemes and polluting industries of these towns. The committee submitted its report in two parts. The court passed orders and issued directions to the concerned government departments and notices were served to various industries. Rakesh K Jaiswal of Eco-Friends was one of the members of the monitoring committee.

March 6, 1998

Uninterrupted Power Supply to GAP assets: The court went to the extent of ordering that all the GAP assets such as wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations, crematoria etc. be given an uninterrupted power supply just as the Governor’s house and Legislative Assembly do. In response to the above order, a separate power supply was arranged for various GAP assets but this arrangement could not last long due to non-payment of electricity bills.

Cleaning of Buriha Ghat: Special Task Force was formed under the chairmanship of District Magistrate, Kanpur City to make Buriha Ghat pollution free. The Buriha ghat in Jajmau is a cremation ghat. Hundreds of people visit this ghat every day to cremate their dead. As a ritual, people take a dip in the river and aachaman (mouthful) after cremation. But this ghat had two glue factories that used to boil the leather remains as raw material with goat and buffalo tails as fuel. The entire ghat was strewn with animals' flesh, carcasses, heaps of bones etc. In the wake of court order, the glue factories were demolished and removed. The situation at Buriha ghat has improved following the demolition of the factories. Two tanneries at Buriha ghat were also closed which were found to be running without Primary Effluent Treatment Plant (PETP).

Formation of River Police: The court directed that the Senior Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Nagar, should immediately set up a River Police Force to patrol the river and ensure that no dead body be thrown in or any illegal activity be carried out along the course of the river.

March 24, 1998

Court identifies areas of key concern: The court directed immediate action on three areas of key concern: the increase of fees at the State sponsored crematoria to help defray costs of operation, the formation of action plans devised by the Jal Nigams of Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi for fool-proof tapping of nalas specified under GAP-I, and again accentuated the importance of river police to enforce existing laws. The court also directed the UP Pollution Board to identify and immediately supply the court with a list of all polluting industries along the Ganga from Haridwar/ Rishikesh to Ballia within one week.

March 31, 1998

Increase charges at government-run electric crematoria: The court ordered all state-sponsored crematoria to standardaize the cost of cremation to Rs. 500 per dead body. This increase is intended to cover operating costs at the crematoria and allow any unclaimed bodies to be cremated at no charge.

May 5, 1998

Formation of High Power committee to ensure compliance: Upon the suggestion of Eco Friends, The High Court formed a high power committee under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary of the UP Govt. The committee comprises many Principal Secretaries (Home, Environment, Finance, Social Welfare, Power), and representatives from State Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board, and the Central Government. The committee was directed to submit a fortnightly report in the court so that the court could monitor the progress. Fortnightly reports were submitted in the court for a few months but have been now discontinued because of the inactivity of the Courts. This is a priority area for action.

Formation of Ganga Fund: The court also ordered the formation of a Ganga Fund (in the pattern of the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund), accepting 100% tax-exempt donations from the public, in order to promote public participation and contribution in the cleaning of the river. The Ministry of Environment and Forest had taken an initiative in this regard and a formal proposal for the creation of Ganga Fund was sent to the Ministry of Finance for their approval.

Formation of River Police from existing police force: The court directed that the Senior superintendents of the police create the river police from the existing police force in any district inhabited by more than ten thousand people, with more zones created in larger cities at the discretion of the superintendent. The responsibilities of the river police were to include the enforcement of rules prohibiting the litter of garbage or dead animals and humans, open defecation, and the washing of clothes in the river.

May 20, 1998

Order regarding Lower Ganga Canal/Police & Tanneries: Police in Kanpur were again instructed to monitor the riverbanks and enforce pollution regulations, as well as monitor tanneries and their compliance with the directive to establish primary effluent treatment plants. Those industries that had not complied with this directive were ordered to be closed. This ultimately resulted in the closure of 150 tanneries in Kanpur, 50 saree printing units in Varanasi, 10 carpet dyeing units in Mirzapur, and 7 stone crushers in Haridwar that did not have Primary Effluent Treatment Plants (PETP)/ Pollution control measures. Several other industries were served notices. The Court passed these closure orders at the demand of Rakesh K Jaiswal as a petitioner wherein he submitted a list of industries not having Primary Effluent Treatment Plants to the Court.

July 09, 1998

Protecting the Ganga at its source: The court also made Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) a party to this case. This order came following a newspaper report that Gangotri Glacier (source of the Ganga river) is shrinking fast and Ganga is polluted right from the source at Gaumukh. The State Govt. was directed to construct soak-pit toilets in the hilly regions along the Ganga. Now Garhwal is in the newly formed State of Uttarakhand. The progress about the implementation of above order is not known.

July 13, 1998

Monthly Water Quality Monitoring: The court ordered the UP Pollution Control Board to do a monthly monitoring of river water quality from the user’s point of view unlike the previous method of sampling water from the centre of the river. Thus, an effort to improve the quality of water at bathing ghats and intake points has been undertaken to ensure the safety of the users and communities living along the banks and for all those directly or indirectly dependent on river water. In the wake of above court order, the State Pollution Control Board started monitoring the river water quality as per the court order. Monthly reports were submitted in the court for some months. The court also directed the Board to make the test results public and in the case of Varanasi, to display the water quality on various ghats. This order was implemented and test results were displayed for a few months of the court order.

Safe disposal of chrome-laden toxic tannery sludge from Jajmu: In the wake of a court order, the Nagar Nigam started removing the sludge from Jajmau area to the Rooma area of Kanpur. In the beginning, around 800 odd truckloads of sludge were disposed off over a sheet of plastic. This work now takes place only haltingly. While there is money sanctioned to develop a scientific landfill site for the disposal of toxic tannery sludge in Rooma village, the work needs to be monitored continuously and expedited. Until the waste is removed, it shall continue to be a serious health hazard.

August 27, 1998

GAP Phase I Audit: The court nominated a team of auditors led by Sameer Gupta (all senior Retd. Officers of Indian Audit & Accounts Services) to investigate how the money under the Ganga Action Plan Phase-I was spent. The audit team has already submitted its report (3 volumes) to the court. The audit report has found various cases of financial mismanagement and wasteful expenditures and faulty planning of GAP. Government has also filed its replies in 3 volumes.

September 16, 1998

Central Technical Committee formed to oversee execution of GAP-II: The court directed the Central Govt. to stop the execution of GAP-II till a Central Technical Committee was formed which would approve the projects and oversee the execution of GAP-II. Central government filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court and got the above order stayed. As a result of the stay order, the entire project is continuing.

October 13, 1998

Formation of local committees in GAP towns: The court also directed the government to form local committees with the participation of civil society in various GAP towns and maintain transparency in GAP works.

The Litigation is still going on. We are also requesting the court to declare 200 meters of area on both sides of the banks as a No Development Zone and the same to be transferred to the forest department for afforestation with the participation of the affected communities. In fact, we have proposed that in the entire Ganga cleaning program, wherever manual labor is required, the affected communities and displaced people should be accorded priority in employment. We are also requesting the court to direct the Government to evolve a comprehensive policy for the urbanization and industrialization along the Ganga. We want to stop virgin land of Ganga (Flood plain/ River bed) from being colonized for further urban development or industrial use. We also want the court to issue directions to the Government to form a Ganga Vahini (Task Force) involving those communities that are directly related with Ganga and are dependent on Ganga for their livelihood.

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