Reminding the Narendra Modi government that cleaning of Ganga was on its poll manifesto, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked why urgent steps are not being taken on it and set a two-week timeline for it to come up with a road map for making the 2500 km long river pollution free.
A bench headed by Justice TS Thakur said the issue of cleaning Ganga is very important and it has to be put on the front burner.
"Are you saving river Ganga? It was also there in your manifesto. Why don't you act on it?," the bench said, while referring to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s pre-poll promise to clean the river.
"Is the issue on the front burner or the back burner? These issues are very important and it has to be put on front burner," it said when Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar sought more time to respond, saying that the matter has been assigned to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation which was earlier handled by Ministry of Environment and Forest.
The bench then adjorned the matter asking the Centre to file affidavit within two weeks giving details about what it proposes to do for cleaning the river. "In this matter you said there is urgency... now there is no urgency for you. You are shuttling the issue between two ministries," the bench observed.
The bench also said that cleaning project should be done in stretches as it cannot be undertaken at one go. It suggested that initially the government should focus to clean first 100 km of the river and then it should take the task of cleaning another part of the river.
On the last date of hearing on August 5, the case was adjourned as the Centre sought more time to file response. The issue of cleaning up of river Ganga has been monitored by the apex court and several applications have been filed.
The unchecked pollution of river Ganga has evoked sharp criticism by the apex court which has been hearing the case since 1985. The 2,500 km stretch of the river passes through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns.
The ambitious 'Ganga Action Plan' to clean the river was launched by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.