The Bombay High Court has formed a committee headed by a divisional commissioner to monitor works of authorities concerned who are responsible to check pollution of Godavari river in the pilgrim town of Nashik, which is to host Kumbh festival in July-September 2015.
A division bench of Justices AS Oka and SC Gupte formed the committee on Friday while hearing a petition filed by Nashik residents praying for cleaning of Godavari.
Godavari is the second largest river in India after the Ganga, which is the main source of drinking water for Nashik and also used for disposing of industrial and domestic waste. The religious jamboree is held once in 12 years, attracting millions of devotees from all over the country.
The HC-appointed panel would also comprise the commissioner of Nashik municipal corporation (NMC), Nashik district collector, representative of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, an expert in the field appointed by the divisional commissioner, and a representative of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
The judges also asked the state government to create a separate cell consisting of adequate number of police officers for maintaining law and order, for assisting civic authorities and the court-appointed committee, for implementation of orders. For the time being, the minimum staff of at least one police inspector, four sub-inspectors and 30 constables shall be made available. During the Kumbh congregation, large number of policemen will have to be deployed for which directions will be issued later, the court said.
As Nashik is a religious place for performance of last rites of deceased, the court has asked the city's civic body to make available within two months the facility of sufficient number of permanent artificial ponds for immersion of ashes and other organic material during the course of traditional obsequies. Similarly, at the time of immersion of Ganesh idols during Ganesh festival and at the time of immersion of Durga idols during Navratri festival, artificial ponds shall be temporarily created, the bench ruled.
As regards the Kumbh festival in 2015, the court was informed across the bar that the state government has sanctioned funds for carrying out work in various categories. The bench noted that the government will have to take into consideration the reports submitted by NEERI containing various recommendations.
The Judges directed the collector to file an affidavit by June 30 to bring on record the decision taken by the state in the light of the third report of NEERI on measures to check pollution during Kumbh fair.
The petition alleged that the major aspect which was contributing to pollution of Godavari river was the "human factor".
Various religious and other activities also contributed to pollution of the river for years. There was a lack of sensitivity as regards maintaining a pollution-free environment, the petition said.
The court noted that on one hand the government had failed to control the water pollution in Nashik, and on the other the citizens were not doing their duty in keeping the river clean.