‘A State that depends primarily on flowing water and rainwater must keep them pollution free’
The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to constitute an expert body with persons having impeccable credentials to suggest ways and measures to prevent pollution of flowing water in rivers and waterbodies, either by way of discharge of effluents by industries or letting out of sewage by local inhabitants.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy issued the directions while passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition pending since 2017. Karur-based advocate T. Dhanasekaran had filed the case, accusing a private dyeing unit of polluting Amaravati river, a tributary of the Cauvery, by discharging effluents.
The petitioner’s counsel, V. Raghavachari, contended that the discharge of effluents into the river not just lead to pollution of surface water but also the groundwater, rendering them poisonous. He said river water in the entire region had become non-potable and urged the court to quash a 2014 government order granting permission for the expansion of the dyeing unit.
On the other hand, advocate Srinath Sridevan, representing the dyeing unit, said it was a zero-liquid discharge industry and the pollution of river water could not be attributed to it. There could be other reasons for pollution in the region.
After recording their submissions, the judges held that it was the duty of the State to ensure that pollution levels in flowing water is reduced to the lowest level. Appropriate checks and balances should be introduced to completely prohibit the discharge of effluents by industries as well as sewage by individuals, they said.
Impressing upon the need to preserve the quality of water in rivers for the benefit of users downstream, the judges agreed with Mr. Raghavachari that a polluted river would render the groundwater too toxic. A State which primarily depends upon flowing water and rainwater should take every endeavour to maintain their quality, they said.
After dictating the orders, the judges told State Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan not to consider the case as an adversarial litigation and instead take positive steps towards preserving the natural resources for posterity. “It is not for you and me, it is for our children,” the Chief Justice said, stressing that the future generation should get to use fresh air and clean water.
The Chief Justice also expressed disappointment over the stench that continues to emanate from the Cooum, flowing through Chennai city. He said the foul smell could be felt even when the judges took a walk near the judges’ bungalows on Greenways Road, and even inside air-conditioned cars while they travelled across the Napier Bridge, every day, to reach the High Court.