The Supreme Court has again criticised the poor progress of the Ganga Action Plan and asked the NDA government whether it would be able to complete the cleaning of the river in this term or in the next.
The cleaning of the Ganga has been on for the last 30 years and around Rs 2000 crore have been spent so far, the court pointed out. "Do you want to complete it this term or the next term... keeping the issue alive?" a three-judge bench headed by Justice TS Thakur told the Centre.
Representing the Centre, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that the work could be completed by 2018. Already, 118 towns along the river have been identified for the setting up of sewage treatment plants, the Centre said.
Not mollified, the court directed the Centre to submit a status report on the progress of the sewage treatment plants.
"Since we have handed over the issue of industrial pollution to the National Green Tribunal, only domestic waste is left, and we hope you don't have financial problem for the project," the court said.
This was the second time in the last six months the top court pulled up the authorities in charge of cleaning up the 2,500 km river - the hearing in the case has been on since 1985.
In September, the court said the Centre's action plan may not help clean the river Ganga "even after 200 years".
"We don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of committees," the court said. "You should take steps so that Ganga gets its pristine glory. We don't know whether we will see it or not."
The pollution control boards have also come in for sharp rebuke. "Yours is a story of complete failure, frustration and disaster," the court said in October, pointing out that if the dumping of industrial effluents could be stopped, 30% of the river would be clean.
The state boards were not making an effort in this direction because of "deep-rooted corruption", the court said.
The Green Tribunal had been directed to submit a report on industrial pollution every six months.