Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding contamination of groundwater due to arsenic in India, 11/09/2019

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Sunita Pandey & Others Vs Union of India & Others dated 11/09/2019 regarding contamination of groundwater due to Arsenic and availability of clean drinking water in Bahraich, Ballia, Balrampur, Bareilly, Basti, Bijnor, Chandauli, Ghazipur, Gonda, Ghorakpur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Meerut, Mirzapur, Muradabad, Rai Bareilly, Santkabirnagar, Shajahanpur, Siddharthnagar, Sant Ravidas Nagar and Unnao and certain other districts in Uttar Pradesh and other similarly affected areas in the country including in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab and West Bengal.

The Tribunal in its order of October 25, 2018 had directed for an extensive review on the subject. 28 districts of Uttar Pradesh were identified as affected by the problem in the report prepared by the State Water Resources Agency, Uttar Pradesh. A team of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) found number of deaths from the diseases on account of the problem. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation also took cognizance and identified mitigation measures. The Ministry of Agriculture also identified certain steps to be taken. Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam identified 310 village hamlets situated in 179 revenue villages of District Ballia and 165 village hamlets situated in 49 revenue villages in District Lakhimpur Kheri, where shallow ground water is found to contain Arsenic in excess of permissible limit of 0.05 mg/L, prescribed for potable water by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS:10500).

The Tribunal said that "more than 1 Crore population of the Country is affected by the Arsenic contaminated water which is carcinogenic, issue of making available potable drinking water to the said population is a inalienable constitutional duty for which the Central Government as well as the States have to make all possible efforts." The Central government should take the lead and existing plan of action to combat the arsenic menance should be relooked. States have been asked to consider viable options to for immediate supply of drinking water, with the Central Government monitoring it and a compliance report be filed by the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti before the next date.