The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has constituted an eight-member joint committee to look into the pollution of Powai Lake in the Eastern suburb of Mumbai and the failure of authorities to take remedial action.
The Court said there is need to deal with the unremedied pollution, having potential for damage to the environment and the wildlife.
The bench headed by Tribunal Chairman Adarsh Kumar Goel in an order passed on January 12, noted, "Water quality of the lake can lead to killing of fishes, affecting the crocodile nestling sites, dependent of fish. Though certain initiatives are said to have been taken for restoration/revival of the lake and prevention of damage to the environment, the steps so far taken are not adequate and desired results are yet to be achieved." "There is thus need to continue sustained efforts by the State authorities as well as civil society and to maintain constant vigilance. There is also need to take coercive measures to enforce environmental norms by way of coordinated efforts of all the statutory regulators, wherever necessary. Primary responsibility remains of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the Wetland Authority and the Forest Department (Wildlife Division). Local Police may also have to take responsibility", said NGT.
Tribunal further said, the Environment Department of Maharashtra has also to take pro-active action. Since the primary issue is the compliance of laid down norms by the statutory regulators, all that is required is to issue directions to the said authorities to perform their duty. It may be necessary to constitute a Joint Committee for coordinated action.
The Committee may prepare its action plan covering all aspects of the environment in the light of earlier studies and plans, as may be updated in the light of current ground situation. The Committee may particularly take steps to ensure compliance of Wetland Rules, 1972 and other Environmental Rules, including, steps to prevent discharge of sewage or any other effluents and monitor water quality to protect fishes and other aquatic fauna and distinct sites of the marsh crocodiles. It may have mechanism for assessing water quality monitoring at strategic locations, exploring possibilities of installing aeration systems, prohibiting use of phosphate bearing detergents and other measures required to be taken, said tribunal order.
According to the applicants, the sources of pollution are discharge of effluents and sewage, illegal reclamation for construction and dumping of debris. The lake is home to scheduled species of wildlife as per Schedule to the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 (WPA). The statutory authorities have failed to discharge their obligation under the 'Public Trust' doctrine. The area of lake is 210 hectares as per Central Institute of Fisheries Education, with catchment area of 6.61 sq. kms.
Powai Lake is one of immense ecological importance, home to several protected species of birds and animals and the water of the lake has many dependents for various purposes.