In view of the state government’s apathy towards restoring the Mithi river – which flooded Mumbai in 2005, killing more than 1,000 people – the Supreme Court slammed the Maharashtra government for not taking any effective steps to rectify the situation over the past 12 years.
In an order from August 16, published on Saturday, the SC asked for the formation a team – comprising the director of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) and director of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) – convened by the either the state government or the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), to ensure the pollution levels in the river reduce and its restoration work begins soon.
The court directed the state, or the SEIAA, to deposit Rs50 lakh with the court for expenses that will be incurred by the joint committee to study and restore the river.
“We have been informed that as a result of the floods, more than 1,000 people had died and perhaps several thousand had fallen ill with various diseases due to the polluted water in Mumbai,” the Apex Court order said. “Notwithstanding this tragedy of enormous proportions, no effective steps appear to have been taken by anybody in the state of Maharashtra to remedy the situation in spite of the fact that a little more than 12 years have gone by.”
NGOs Jalbiradari and Vanashakti had raised these issues three years ago before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Environmentalists allege that hundreds of crores have been spent to restore Mithi river, but it continues to degrade with pollution levels much more above the permissible limit.
“The joint team will give us a factual report on what has transpired so far, what is the extent of damage caused to Mithi river, what steps can be taken to remedy the damage, and short term and long term future course of action,” said the order passed by the SC bench of justice Madan B Lokur and justice Deepak Gupta.