Rivers have an inherent right to flow, companies involved in hydro-electric projects cannot be permitted to use rivers as ‘dumping sites’

Uttaranchal High Court: Addressing a question of grave importance relating to pollution of rivers in the State due to unscientific muck disposal, the Division Bench comprising of Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh, JJ. directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and other concerned authorities for a proper dumping of muck by the industries.

The petitioners highlighted the important issue of unscientific dumping of muck directly into the river by the companies involved in hydro-electric power generation. Sites were sanctioned by the Ministry and other authorities for proper disposal of muck, however, the companies dumped the muck in the most unscientific manner directly into the rivers to save on transportation costs.

Noting the averments of the petition, the Court observed that the careless manner in which muck and other excavated material is dumped into rivers has left the rivers polluted and caused immense damage to river’s ecology and surrounding areas. It was further observed, the rivers have an inherent and natural right to flow in length as well as in width. Sustainable development is need of the hour. The Court took notice of the fact that such activity had caused flash floods, level of river bed has increased. The Court held that companies involved in hydro-electric projects cannot be permitted to use rivers as dumping sites. Such sites are to be specifically provided by the authorities and the muck can only be stacked away from river banks. Further, it was observed that National Green Tribunal had issued directions to authorities not to throw muck directly into rivers, but such directions have not been complied with. Finally, the petition was disposed of directing the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Union of India and Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board inter alia to identify sites for muck disposal at least 500 meters away from the river banks; to ensure a minimum of 15% flow of water downstream; taking coercive action against  those involved in direct dumping of muck into the rivers, etc. [Himadri Jan Kalyan Sansthan v. State of Uttarakhand,2018 SCC OnLine Utt 532 , dated 11-06-2018]

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