New Delhi: Are the authorities waiting for the "atom bomb of garbage" to explode, an anguished Supreme Court bench asked on Wednesday, saying it was "shocking" that the states and union territories were not at all bothered about the "national issue" of solid waste management.
The top court also took strong exception that lawyers for none of the states and union territories, except for Delhi, were present in the court during the hearing and said it was a clear indication of their lack of concern.
"It is a clear indication that nobody bothers. So all the dump of India can remain here," a three-judge bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta said.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, representing the Centre, told the bench that they have filed an affidavit about the details received from 28 out of the 36 states and union territories (UTs) on solid waste management.
When the bench observed that no state or UT was bothered about the issue, Mr Nadkarni said, "it is like we are sitting on atom bomb of garbage".
To this, the bench asked, "What should we do? Wait for the atom bomb of garbage to explode?"
The bench said that besides Delhi, the lawyers for other states and UTs were not present in the court and asked the Centre what should be done now.
"What do we do, you (Centre) tell us. Is this the attitude of states governments about solid waste management? Nobody (lawyers) for the states and UTs, except for Delhi, are present," the bench observed.
Mr Nadkarni said the court could call for a "responsible officer" of each states and UT to appear before it and explain their stand.
The Centre also told the apex court that they have filed the information received from the states, UTs and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as per which State Level Advisory Body (SLABs) have been constituted in some of the states and UTs.
It said that meetings of SLAB have been conducted in 17 states and UTs, out of which there were only three states and UTs which have held two or more meetings.
The court noted in its order that as per the information furnished by the Centre, Delhi has conducted six meetings of the SLAB.
It said that solid waste management was a "national issue" and issued notices to all the states and UTs observing that the authorities were not taking the matter seriously.
The bench then fixed the matter for further hearing on March 19.
The Supreme Court had on February 6 warned the Centre for dumping "junk" before it in an 845-page affidavit containing "incomplete information" about solid waste management across the country and had said that the top court was not a "garbage collector".
The court, which is hearing a matter related to implementation of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 across the country, had on December 12 last year asked the Centre to follow up on the issue of solid waste management with all states and UTs and furnish details.
It had expressed grave concern over the deaths due to vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya and said that lack of waste management was the cause of several lives being lost across the country.
In 2015, the apex court had on its own taken cognisance of death of a seven-year-old boy here due to dengue. He had been allegedly denied treatment by five private hospitals and his distraught parents had subsequently committed suicide.