Bombay HC: Cleaning coastline not just about beaches, future generations should be protected

On June 30, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni had expressed concerns over garbage dumped in the sea, causing "danger to marine life" and indicated it would initiate a suo motu PIL to address the issue

The Bombay High Court Friday said cleaning the coastline of Maharashtra was not just about cleaning the beaches but measures were required to be taken to ensure non-disposable waste is not dumped into the sea. This, the court said, was to protect the interests of future generations.

On Friday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted a note in response to a suo motu PIL by the hight court on the beach cleaning measures undertaken in Mumbai. The state said Mumbai has seven beaches, of which six were cleaned daily by using appropriate machinery as well as manually. The note added that the BMC had recently purchased beach cleaning machines that operate with the latest technology and that waste is sent to dumping grounds after segregation. “A total 62793 Metric Tonnes (MT) of plastic waste was generated in the year 2020-21 in the BMC area, out of which 8409 MT was sent for recycling,” the note stated.

On June 30, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni had expressed concerns over garbage dumped in the sea, causing “danger to marine life” and indicated it would initiate a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to address the issue.

The HC had then said that over the past few days, especially after cyclone Tauktae, various newspaper reports indicated that the Maharashtra coastline “including beaches in Mumbai and Marine drive” were “full of filth of garbage left behind by the sea”, and that these reports painted “a very sorry picture with regard to the cleaning of the coast”.

The bench also said the reason why it wanted to deal with the issue in an urgent manner was that the ‘serious problem’ was faced during the ongoing monsoon and the same needed to be resolved.

It then sought responses from Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the Centre, and Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, for the state, along with counsel for Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Kumbhakoni further submitted Friday that the BMC has installed eight primary Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) where sewage is treated before it is discharged into the sea. “At these plants, by way of filtration and other processes, plastic and other solid waste is segregated and is thus prevented from polluting the sea,” the note said.

The state government added that as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has allowed discharge of sewage into the sea only after treating it, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has issued directions to BMC including installing mechanical gates and screen to arrest garbage being discharged into the sea and also to ensure the mangrove area is a plastic free zone.

The government’s note also said appropriate laws providing penal action have been framed to prevent pollution which takes place as slum dwellers residing near river, nullah and creek are disposing large quantities of waste directly into the river or storm-water drains.

After perusing the submissions and the note, the bench orally observed, “It is not only about beach cleaning but measures are necessary to take measures beyond that. From where does all the material get into the sea? How can it be prevented? it goes deeper. You have slums and encroachments on banks from where untreated garbage usually goes to rivers or sea.”

Justice Kulkarni referred to pollution in Mithi river and said, “Everything is dumped (into the waters). What comes out is only a fraction. What is there in the belly of the ocean, we do not know. We are not focusing on just beach cleaning. It is a larger issue. Our future generation should be protected.”

The Court asked the counsels for state and Centre to take instructions on its queries and file its response next week.

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