PUNE: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench here has directed the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to jointly identify industries in the state that discharge effluents with higher fluoride content into treated waste water.
The court also asked the two government bodies to adopt stricter standards to curb discharge of such effluents.
The identified industries/infrastructure projects will have to secure no objection certificate (NOC)/permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) or face closure in case of failure to secure such NOC/permission, the tribunal ruled recently while disposing of a plea by a group of lawyers from western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada. The applicants had highlighted the harmful effects of high content of fluoride in groundwater at 12 districts in these regions on the health of people, especially those living in rural areas.
The applicants cited rising cases of fluorosis among people, particularly children owing to consumption of contaminated water and argued that the contamination was caused by over exploitation of groundwater in the 12 districts for industrial, infrastructural and agricultural activities. Fluorosis refers to a health condition that leads to disturbance of dental enamel due to excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development. In certain cases, referred as skeletal fluorosis, an excessive accumulation of fluorides in body results in bone-related diseases.
Through an affidavit, the MPCB informed the bench that it was conducting the groundwater quality monitoring in the state under two separate programmes viz. the National Water Monitoring Programme (NWMP) and the State Water Monitoring Programme (SWMP).
Partly allowing the plea, the bench of Justice V R Kingaonkar and Ajay A Deshpande passed a series of directions and recommended that the state government may consider adopting a policy decision to disallow crops like paddy, sugarcane etc. in areas where the groundwater level has gone deep and fluoride contents are 0.5 mg/lt in excess of limits prescribed, to avoid fluoride to children in early age.
The bench gave four weeks time to the CGWB and MPCB to identify the industries/infrastructure projects that require an NOC/permission from the CGWA and publish such list on their websites directing the industries to apply for necessary permission in the next four weeks.
The collectors have been directed to discontinue all in-use groundwater sources having higher content of fluoride and identify alternate source of water in six months.