NGT warns MVDA top functionary of consequences over failure to tackle pollution in Radha Kund

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Miffed over the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority’s (MVDA) laxity in tackling Radha Kund pollution, the NGT said that the CEO of civic body will be liable to prosecution and payment of compensation under the provisions of National Green Tribunal Act (2010) which includes civil imprisonment and termination of salary, in case there’s further delay in action.

Miffed over the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority’s (MVDA) laxity in tackling Radha Kund pollution, the NGT said that the CEO of civic body will be liable to prosecution and payment of compensation under the provisions of National Green Tribunal Act (2010) which includes civil imprisonment and termination of salary, in case there’s further delay in action.

In May last year, Ghaziabad resident and noted green activist Sushil Raghav filed a  petition in the NGT alleging that in the absence of proper sewerage system, accumulated sewage and other domestic waste is being dumped into the Radha Kund.

On May 6 the Green Court issued an order for a “joint inspection and action taken report from a Committee comprising Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), District Magistrate, Mathura and Mathura-Vrindavan Nagar Nigam within two months.” It had further directed the UPPCB to be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance.

The order further stated, “The issue raised in this application relates to remedial steps to be taken against discharge of sewage and domestic waste into the Radha Kund and Shyam Kund in the Village of Arita in Mathura District, Uttar Pradesh.” The matter was listed for hearing on August 21.

While the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) submitted its finding to the Tribunal stating that the water of the two kunds is unfit for consumption due to contamination by the discharge of sewage and domestic waste, even as late as March 2020, the MVDA did not furnish the ‘action-taken’ report, it was supposed to. Displeased over the inordinate delay, the National Green Tribunal warned the latter’s chief functionary of stringent action.

The Court, however, gave an opportunity for course correction before coercive measures are invoked against the CEO. An explanation will be sought from him on the next hearing, Meanwhile the SPCB has informed the Tribunal of compensation recovery from MVDA being underway.

During the hearing on May 6, the Tribunal had noted that, “Microbiological tests carried out by S.N. Medical College, Agra found the presence of bacterial strains causing Cholera in the waters of Radha Kund and Shyam Kund. The report concluded that it was not fit for drinking and this could be the reason behind the increased instances of food poisoning that are being reported.”

A study carried out by the Department of Zoology, MSJ Govt. P.G. College, Bharatpur, Rajasthan also revealed that physiochemical parameters such as turbidity, alkalinity, hardness, sulphates and chlorides in Radha Kund and Shyam Kund substantially exceeded the prescribed limits given by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). “Increased number of cases of diarrhoeal diseases and the aforementioned tests link the outbreak to the water quality of the two Kunds.”

Taking a serious view of the above findings, the NGT had directed the authorities to display a clear warning on the site stating that the water is unfit for human consumption till the situation improves. However these instructions were not heeded to even during the Bahulashtami celebrations when millions of devotees from across the country come to worship Radha Kund.

Alleging negligence in this regard the petitioner Sushil Raghav, said, “The Court had asked that explanatory boards be put up near these water bodies to prevent people from doing ‘achman’ and other religious rituals, but that was not done. Despite the threat to people’s health and life, authorities have been allowing the contamination of these water bodies, which clearly indicates fraudulent practices on their part.”

It should be noted that thousands of devotees visit Radha Kund every year. The eternal glories of this divine kund situated in the Govardhan foothills draw a large number of pilgrims, particularly on festival days. Even though residents and activists have been vocal about the polluted state of its waters, this has not deterred devotees from performing ‘achman’ (sipping of water for purification) or bathing in the kund.

Keeping in mind the religious sentiments of people, the Braj Tirtha Vikas Parishad (BTVP) had undertaken a project for the treatment and purification of Radha and Shyama Kund in January last year.

A Gurugram-based agency ‘JS-Water Energy life’ was contracted for the project which was carried out in collaboration with the Tourism and Fire Departments.

Fire fighting machines were used to ‘overdose’ the two kunds in order to increase the proliferation of pollution-combating bacteria. Test results showed that the water of Radha Kund and Shyama Kund was biologically unfit. For example, there was 46 mg/L carbon dioxide, instead of 30 mg/L. It was hoped that the good bacteria will oxygenate the water. 

The project was estimated to take around three months for completion, with the results of ‘overdosing’ starting to show within ten days of treatment. While the BTVP’s intention was to implement this strategy for other kunds in Braj should this one be successful, the signs have not been encouraging even after more than a year now.

Experts reckon that such cosmetic measures will not be effective unless pollution is tackled at source, and thus prevented from entering the kunds altogether. The sacred water bodies cannot be reduced to sewage treatment plants.  

The sorry state of the divine kunds of Braj is no secret. Many have been encroached upon, while others that have dried up are reduced to dumping grounds for construction waste and household garbage. The ones that are still alive are thriving solely due to the ‘shraddha’ of devotees who despite knowing the reality choose to not give up their faith. 

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