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Supreme Court appoints committee to check water quality

A special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, was hearing a plea filed by the Delhi Jal Board, regarding the increase in ammonia in the drinking water supplied to Delhi from Haryana.

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The Supreme Court today appointed a committee, headed by the Secretary of the Jal Shakti Ministry, to ascertain the quality and quantity of water coming from Haryana and being treated at Wazirabad Plant, for supply to the national capital.

A special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao, was hearing a plea filed by the Delhi Jal Board, regarding the increase in ammonia in the drinking water supplied to Delhi from Haryana.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing on behalf of the Delhi Government, submitted that people were observing fasts on Ramzan and Navratri, therefore, water was essential these days. He prayed for the appointment of Commission for examining the quality of water at both Wazirabad and Haidarpur plants. 

Justice L. Nageswara asked Advocate Singh to mention the point.

To this, Singh replied that the point is Palla. It is the area, where the river water from Haryana enters the national capital, so ammonia needs to be checked there.

Justice Rao asked the Counsel for the State of Haryana to make his submissions. 

Senior Advocate Purushaindra Kaurav, appearing for the state of Haryana, submitted that Yamuna is being taken up as the first river under the Suo Motu plea. So far as pollutants are concerned, they had visited the NGT separately by filing an Interlocutory Application and it was withdrawn, since the parties had arrived at an amicable conclusion that Chief Secretaries of the states will meet and sort out the dispute.

Advocate Kaurav further submitted that availability of water was the same when the inspection was carried out in 2017. It is not that earlier there was more water and now it has reduced. Shortfall is because when the water enters into the Wazirabad pond, there is diversion in other ponds.

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Justice Rao inquired from Advocate Kaurav as to where he lives, to which Advocate Kaurav said, “I live in Delhi”

To which Justice Rao joked, “Then you will also be affected (all laugh)”

Advocate Kaurav then submitted that Upper Yamuna River board is the competent authority to look into this. 

Justice Rao said, “We are not partial to Delhi too. What we are thinking is how to tide over this current situation.”

Amicus Curiae Meenakshi Arora said,

“The matter of concern is the release of wastage into the river water. The waste in water tends to increase the ammonia level in water and once this is looked into, levels of ammonia will come down. Within the states of Haryana and Delhi, the Central Monitoring Committee is looking into this”.

Arora further said that there are about 7-8 recommendations, which have to be looked into. “Let the states come and say they will abide by the recommendations. Once those steps are taken, waters in the river won’t be as polluted as it is now.

To which Justice Rao said, “That will require hearings”

Senior Advocate Arora replied, “Unfortunately, no other way as of now. Only the water level has to be maintained.”

Then, Justice Rao inquired can any commission or committee be appointed to look into this and who can be a part of this?

Senior Advocate Arora answered that Shailaja Chandra is an expert on such matters.

To which Justice Rao asked, “Why can’t we ask Upper Yamuna River Board to look into the Palla point?”

Then, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh interjected by saying, “We prefer an independent committee”

Justice Rao said the petition is to ensure that discharge of pollutants leading to spike in ammonia in Yamuna is controlled. Another direction is sought to maintain the level of water supplied to Delhi. Delhi Jal Board complains of inadequate supply of water.

Justice Rao observed that it is necessary to find out if Haryana and Delhi have complied with the recommendations made by the Yamuna Monitoring Committee, now headed by the Central Monitoring Committee, regarding adequate water supply.

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Justice Rao ordered that the Committee shall report on quality and quantity of water given to Wazirabad plant, levels at Wazirabad plant and to see if the water is being diverted to water treatment plants before it reaches Wazirabad and two other areas

Justice Rao further ordered that Committee shall consist of:1. Secretary of the Minsitry of Jal Shakti, 

2. Joint Secretary of Jal Shakti ministry be nominated by Secretary,

3. member of Delhi Pollution Control Board,

4. Member of Delhi Jal Board. 

5. Member of Haryana Pollution board and 

6. Haryana Agricultural Board

Justice Rao added that the Secretary of the Jal Shakti Ministry will chair the committee. Thereafter, Justice Rao deferred the hearing on matter till April 30, 2021.

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