The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has disposed of a long-standing petition on Santragachhi Jheel by directing the Howrah Municipal Corporation to set up a sewage treatment plant within four months to prevent untreated sewage from flowing into the lake.
The railways have been asked to provide land for the treatment plant and remove encroachers from the fringes of the lake within three months.
“We are of the view that… Municipal Corporation Howrah or the Railways cannot claim the right to discharge untreated waste into the lake which is a criminal offence,” a five-member bench of the tribunal, led by chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, has stated.
The bench has also pointed out that the state pollution control board can take “action in accordance with the provision of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974”.
The order was passed on July 4 but could only be accessed on Wednesday.
The petition was filed by environment activist Subhas Datta in January 2016. He alleged that the Howrah civic body, railways and the state pollution control board had failed to prevent discharge of untreated sewage into the Santragachhi Jheel, a notified bird sanctuary.
Several orders were passed but with little result as the civic body and the railways continued to nudge each other for funds, land and other issues.
According to an expert committee set up by the court, 82 per cent of the sewage that flows into the lake comes from municipal sources and the rest from the railways.
“Municipal Corporation Howrah may take steps… to set up necessary STP along with Garland Drain within four months to prevent discharge of untreated sewage into the lake by incurring cost from its own sources initially and sorting out its claim against the Railways separately,” reads the order.
It further directed: “… all sources of sewage and its carriage system may be properly intercepted and diverted to STP. No garbage be dumped in the lake or its peripheral boundaries.”
“The Railway may provide land for the purpose of setting up of STP (and) may take steps to remove encroachment within three months from the periphery of the lake to the extent of area falling in its jurisdiction in accordance with law,” the bench said.
“The civic body will take a decision after studying the order in detail,” said Sujoy Chakrabarty, chairman of the board of administrators in the civic body.
“I am happy,” said petitioner Datta.