The legal battle

Published : Oct 21, 2005 00:00 IST

THE pollution of the Yamuna became a subject of litigation for the first time in 1985 in a case filed by the environmentalist M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court. In his case, Mehta, who won the Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1997, asked the court to safeguard Delhi's ecology.

He mentioned the Delhi Ridge, the state of the Capital's parks, the presence of polluting and hazardous industries and the state of the Yamuna. The court directed the government to set up 16 sewage treatment plants and the industries to construct an appropriate number of common effluent treatment plants. Mehta told Frontline that the case had seen no progress for the past nine years.

Cdr. Sureshwar D. Sinha, chairperson of the Delhi-based NGO Paani Morcha, filed a case in the Supreme Court in July 1992 and argued that a major cause of Yamuna's pollution was the absence of free-flowing river water. Sinha asked for the immediate recommencement of regular flow in the Yamuna, downstream of Tajiawala and Okhla. The government's strategy seems to be to label the issue a water-sharing one and refer it to an appropriate tribunal. Sinha is fighting to keep his case in court.

In 1994, in response to an article titled "And Quiet Flows Mailee Yamuna" published in The Hindustan Times, the Supreme Court appointed Ranjit Kumar as amicus curiae and filed a case against the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for failing to clean up the river. The case came to be known as the "Mailee Yamuna Case". The Thames proposal put forward by the Union government is in response to this case.

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