The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a writ petition filed by Delhi Jal Board(DJB) seeking urgent directions on State of Haryana and Department of Irrigation and Water Resources, Haryana to immediately stop the discharge of pollutants in Yamuna river which is causing alarming rise in its ammonia levels.
A bench comprising comprising Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian asked Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, who appeared for the DJB, to serve copy of the petition on the respondent-State and posted the matter to next Tuesday.
"Yesterday the level of ammonia was 6 and therefore, after an emergency meeting, swe had to issue notices to 38 areas of North and South Delhi saying that there will be shortage of water", Arora submitted before the bench.
"Ammonia when mixed with chlorine will cause cancer. We cannot let the citizens die", she added.
"How can the State of Haryana lower pollution?", the CJI asked,
"The problem with Haryana is that their STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) system doesn't work. You need to check the level of the discharge levels before discharging water in river", Arora replied.
"We request you to serve papers on the respondents. We will take up the matter on Tuesday", the CJI said.
The CJI also asked Arora if she was willing to act as amicus curiae in the suo moto case taken by the Court on the issue of pollution in Yamuna river. On Arora expressing consent, the bench appointed her as the amicus in the suo moto case.
BACKGROUND OF THE PETITION
The petition of DJB states that the increased ammonia levels have resulted in severe impairment of functioning in the water treatment plants installed by Delhi Jal Board affecting the water supply to various parts of NCT of Delhi.
"The plants, particularly those at Chandrawal, Wazirabad and Okhla, have often been forced to operate at only 50 percent capacity or lesser due to the extremely high ammonia levels in the water." The plea states.
According to the petitioner, the respondents have failed in preventing the discharge of effluents in the river. Due to the inaction of the state government and regular breach of ammonia levels in river water, the plants installed by the petitioner are unable to function efficiently impacting the processing of drinking water supply.
The petition relies on the landmark judgment in the cases of Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar (1991) 1 SCC 598 and A.P. Pollution Control Board II v. Prof. M.V. Nayudu (2001) 2 SCC 62 wherein the Apex Court has held that the right to life under Article 21 includes the right to access clean drinking water.
Furthermore, the plea states that "the unchecked discharge of ammonia pollutants into the Yamuna leads to several potential health hazards including internal organ damage for those who consume such water over a long period of time, thereby affecting their fundamental right to life under Article 21."
"It is respectfully submitted that the ordinary levels of ammonia in water is 0.5 ppm, and the Petitioner's plantsare able to treat water with ammonia content of up to 0.9 ppm. However, due to the inaction of the Respondents No. 1 and 2 in preventing the discharge of effluents into the Yamuna, the ammonia levels in water regularly breach that level (sometimes reaching figures as high as 12 ppm) and adversely impact the ability of the water treatment plants to process the water and supply it for drinking", the plea stated.
It is contended that no action has been taken by Haryana authorities despite several communications from the DJB requesting that steps be taken to stop the discharge of pollution into the Yamuna.
The petitioner seeks the following prayers:
- Issue order or directions on the respondents to to immediately ensure the cessation of discharge of pollutants that increase concentration of ammonia in the river waters into the Yamuna, or any of the drains/channels feeding into it.
- Issue directions on Central Pollution Control Board and Haryana State Pollution Control Board to ensure that the discharge of pollutants that increase concentration of ammonia in the river waters of the Yamuna, or any of the drains/channels feeding into it, is discontinued.
- Issue directions on state of Haryana to release 450 Cusecs of water to Delhi at Wazirabad.
The petition was filed through Shadaan Farasat, Advocate on Record.
The Court will take up the matter on 19th January 2021.