High Court tells govt how it can keep water bodies clean

SHILLONG, April 7: The High Court of Meghalaya has ordered that appropriate steps are taken to close the landfill site at Marten, if it has reached the saturation point, upon the identification of an alternate site for immediate use.
Hearing a PIL relating to the cleanliness of Umiam river, a division bench said by the last order of February 23, 2022, the scope of the present matter has been enlarged to include all water bodies in the state in addition to the Umiam Lake.
“The Amicus Curiae and the State report that some measures have been taken and, even otherwise, it appears that the state may have woken up to attend to the issue,” the court observed.
Further, the court said long-term measures, along with immediate steps, need to be taken particularly in the light of increasing footfall of tourists. It is absolutely imperative that the local authorities be roped in and duties and responsibilities be assigned between the state and the local bodies, the court said.
“…the initiative has to be taken by the state. General ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ have to be indicated, levels or distances beyond which tourists may not be permitted should be earmarked, a safe distance be maintained between the edge of the water bodies and vehicular traffic, including parking; and the restriction of certain material like plastics and tetra packs should be indicated…
“If it appeals to the state, plastics and tetra pack-free zones around the water bodies should be demarcated, maintained and tourists and local residents be required to adhere thereto,” the bench said.
According to the court, several of the rivers, particularly those passing through Shillong or the larger towns like Nongstoin, need to be rejuvenated. It said the natural system of flow should be restored based on scientific advice in this regard.
“While citizens along the rivers must have access to the water, there should be awareness campaigns to indicate the nature of permissible use and what other activities would not be permitted. In particular, the measures should be geared to preserve, protect and rejuvenate plants and animals that live or thrive in water,” the order read.
Insisting that long-term as well as short-term measures have to be devised and sincerely implemented, the court hoped that appropriate guidelines would be issued at the state-level, first to arrest further degradation of the water bodies and then to preserve the same, ultimately to rejuvenate or revive them.
The court said as suggested by the Amicus Curiae, boards should be put up to indicate the “dos” and the “don’ts” at major tourist spots, with local personnel engaged to ensure adherence and helpline numbers indicated for any complaints. “It is best that locals be involved in the process as that would result in a personal touch and the  affinity to protect and preserve the immediate environment. The state may consider some form of honorarium or reward for the personal engaged for such purpose,” the court said.
“In the meantime, appropriate steps should be taken to close the landfill site at Marten, if it has reached the saturation point, upon any alternative site being identified for immediate use,” the court further said.

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