In a crucial development, the Supreme Court has issued a significant directive, calling upon the Bihar Government to cease all ongoing construction activities adjacent to the Ganga River, especially in and around Patna. This directive came following an appeal arising from an NGT (National Green Tribunal) Order, originating from the Original Application filed by Ashok Kumar Sinha, a Patna resident. Sinha’s 2020 plea contested multiple illegal constructions, including colonies, brick kilns, and a 1.5 km road built by the Bihar government on the delicate floodplains of the Ganga in Patna, a crucial habitat for the subcontinent’s Dolphin population.

The bench, led by Justices Aniruddha Bose and Augustine George Masih, highlighted the urgent nature of the situation and demanded a progress report from the state regarding the 213 identified illegal structures erected on the Ganga’s floodplains in Patna.

This case stems from the violation of the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection & Management) Authorities Order, 2016, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection & Management) Authorities Order, 2016, is an instrument aimed at safeguarding the River Ganga, one of India’s most significant rivers, from various forms of degradation, pollution, and misuse. This order outlines specific directives, guidelines, and provisions devised to manage, protect, and restore the ecological balance of the Ganga River and its surrounding areas.The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, is a comprehensive legislation that grants the central government the authority to take measures for the protection and improvement of the environment. Under this Act, various rules, orders, and notifications can be issued to address environmental concerns, pollution control, and conservation efforts.

Advocate Akash Vashishtha, representing the Appellant, emphasized the Bihar government’s ongoing allowance of daily illegal constructions on the Ganga floodplains. Vashishthahighlighted the government’s failure to survey the most affected areas, stressing the alarming contamination of Patna’s groundwater with arsenic, a highly carcinogenic element. He underlined that Patna’s drinking water heavily relies on the health of the Ganga’s surface water.

The Court, expressing concern, sought information on the Ganga’s status in West Bengal and Jharkhand, indicating an intention to widen the scope of the Appeal to include these states. Consequently, the Court directed Additional Solicitor General Ms. Aishwarya Bhati to procure this information and present it during the next hearing set for February 5, 2024.

The case, identified as Ashok Kumar Sinha v. Union of India (Civil Appeal No(s). 3367/2020), spotlights the Court’s efforts to halt illegal constructions near the Ganga River, with a specific focus on safeguarding its floodplains, particularly in Patna. The Court’s intervention aims to protect this fragile habitat, essential for the unique Dolphin population, and address immediate environmental concerns related to groundwater contamination in Patna.

This directive emphasizes the critical need to preserve the Ganga’s ecological balance, showcasing the Court’s commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development in the region.

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