Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: The case was filed by concerned citizens, activists, or environmental organizations to address the chronic issues of waterlogging, flooding, and environmental degradation caused by the overflowing Yamuna River in Delhi. They likely filed the case to seek judicial intervention and compel government agencies to take effective measures to mitigate these problems, safeguarding the rights of citizens to a clean and safe environment. A division bench of Manmohan, ACJ., and Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, J., held that the situation of waterlogging, flooding, and environmental degradation in Delhi, caused by the overflowing Yamuna River, required urgent and comprehensive intervention. As a result, the Court issued a series of directives to various government agencies to address the issues effectively and laid down the directives aimed to address the systemic issues contributing to waterlogging and environmental degradation in Delhi and ensure sustainable development and environmental protection.

The city of Delhi has been grappling with severe waterlogging, flooding, and environmental degradation issues for several years. The situation worsened in 2023, with the Yamuna River swelling beyond its banks, causing extensive damage to infrastructure and disrupting civic services. Despite repeated judicial interventions over the years and sporadic efforts by the city administration, the problems persisted due to a lack of coordination between various government agencies and departments responsible for managing drainage systems, water bodies, and environmental conservation. The drainage system in Delhi has not seen significant upgrades since 1995, despite the city’s population nearly tripling during this period. A Drainage Master Plan prepared by IIT-Delhi in 2018 remained unimplemented by the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD). Furthermore, the management of major stormwater drains, spanning over 3740.31 km, was divided among multiple agencies, leading to confusion, blame games, and ultimately, ineffective management. This multiplicity of authorities resulted in mismanagement, pollution of the Yamuna River, and frequent flooding during monsoon seasons.

The dire situation in Delhi prompted concerned citizens and environmental activists to approach the court seeking intervention to address the systemic failures in water management and environmental conservation. The petitioners highlighted the recurring issues of waterlogging, flooding, pollution of water bodies, and the lack of effective measures by the government to mitigate these problems. The petitioners argued that the fundamental rights of the residents of Delhi to a clean environment and adequate civic amenities were being violated due to the negligence of the authorities.

During the Court proceedings, the petitioners presented evidence of the deteriorating environmental conditions in Delhi, including reports of flooding, pollution levels, and encroachments on water bodies. They argued that the fragmented management of drainage systems and water bodies by multiple agencies led to ineffective coordination and mismanagement. The petitioners called for urgent measures to address these issues, including the implementation of the long-pending Drainage Master Plan, consolidation of authority over drainage systems, restoration of water bodies, and stringent measures against polluting industries. The government, represented by the Chief Secretary of GNCTD, acknowledged the severity of the situation and presented plans and initiatives undertaken to address the challenges. However, the Court noted that these efforts had not yielded significant results and emphasized the need for more proactive and coordinated action.

The Court observed the systemic failures in water management and environmental conservation, attributing them to the lack of coordination, fragmented authority, and inadequate implementation of plans and policies. The Court noted the alarming levels of pollution in the Yamuna River and the adverse impact on public health and the environment. It highlighted the need for urgent action to rejuvenate water bodies, improve sewage treatment, and prevent industrial pollution. The Court also criticized the administrative inefficiencies and bureaucratic hurdles that hindered effective implementation of measures. It underscored the importance of accountability, transparency, and public participation in addressing environmental challenges.

Thus, the Court issued a comprehensive set of directives to the GNCTD and other relevant authorities to address the identified issues. These directives included:

  • Finalizing Drainage Master Plans (DMPs) for all basins by a specified deadline.

  • Assigning responsibility for the management and operations of open drains out falling into the Yamuna River to a single department or agency.

  • Desilting and maintenance of drains within specified timelines.

  • Rejuvenation and restoration of water bodies identified through geo-tagging.

  • Implementation of Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems in government buildings.

  • Removal of encroachments from Yamuna River floodplains.

  • Cleaning of construction waste/debris from the Yamuna River.

  • Increasing sewage treatment plant (STP) capacity and ensuring treated water meets prescribed norms.

  • Interconnection of stormwater drains with sewerage networks and vice versa.

  • Identification and action against unauthorized polluting industries.

  • Real-time monitoring of water parameters and setting up a centralized command and control center.

  • Third-party audit of all works carried out to ensure their effectiveness.

[Court on its own motion v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 2675, decided on 08-04-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr.Ripu Daman Bhardwaj, CGSC with Mr.Kushagra Kumar and Mr.K.Manaswini, Advocates for UOI. Mr.Anuj Aggarwal, ASC with Ms.Arshya Singh, Mr. Siddhant Dutt and Mr.Yash Upadhyay, Advocates for GNCTD. Ms.Puja Kalra, Standing Counsel for MCD. Ms. Rashmi Chopra, Advocate for DDA. Mr. Tushar Sannoo, ASC for NDMC.

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