Mehta Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 262 (22 September 1987)
E.S. (J) VENKATARAMIAH, E.S. (J) SINGH, K.N. (J)
1988 AIR 1115 1988 SCR (2) 530 1988 SCC (1) 471 JT 1988 (1) 69
of India, 1950: Articles 48A and 51A-State to protect and improve
environment-Fundamental duty of every citizen to improve natural environment.
Law Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986:
of effluents from tannery into the River Ganga-Necessity to establish primary
treatment plants-Closure of tanneries directed on failure to comply- Life,
health and ecology have great importance.
and Procedure: Court can issue appropriate directions if it finds public
nuisance being committed and statutory authorities not taking adequate steps to
rectify the grievance.
petitioner, an active social worker, filed a petition before this Court complaining
that neither the Government nor the people were giving adequate attention to
stop the pollution of the river Ganga and it was, therefore, necessary to take
steps for the purpose of protecting the cleanliness of the stream in the river
Ganga which was in fact the life sustainer of a large part of the northern
India, and sought the issue of a writ/order/direction in the nature of mandamus
to the respondents other than respondents Nos. 1 and 7 to 9 restraining them
from letting out the trade effluents into the river Ganga till such time they
put necessary treatment plants for treating the trade effluents in order to
arrest the pollution of water in the said river.
Court directed issue of notice under order 1 Rule 8 of the 280 Code of Civil
Procedure treating the case as a representative action by publishing the gist
of the petition in the newspapers in circulation in northern India and calling
upon industrialists and the municipal corporations and town municipal councils
having jurisdiction over the areas through which the river Ganga flows to
appear before the Court to show cause as to why direction should not be issued
as prayed for by the petitioner asking them not to allow trade effluents and
sewage into the river Ganga without appropriately treating them before
discharging them into the river.
to the aforesaid notice a large number of industrialists and legal bodies
entered appearance. Some filed counter affidavits ex-plaining the steps taken
by them for treating trade effluents before discharging them into the river.
case against the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur, was first taken up by the Court
for consideration. Forty three respondents admitted in their counter affidavits
that the tanneries discharged their trade effluents into the sewage nallah
which led to the municipal sewage plant before they were thrown into the river
Court was informed that six of the tanneries had already set up and fourteen
were engaged in construction of primary treatment plants, and some others
pleaded for time to do so. It was submitted on behalf of the respondents that
it would not be possible for them to have secondary system for treating waste
water in view of the enormous expenditure involved, which the tanneries would
not be able to meet.
of the tanneries neither appeared nor were represented by counsel in this
interim directions, this Court, ^
1.1 Article 48-A of the Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to
protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life
of the country. Article 51-A of the Constitution imposes as one of the
fundamental duties on every citizen the duty to protect and improve the natural
environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have
campassion for living creatures. [285C-D] Realising the importance of the
prevention and control of pollution of water for human existence, Parliament
passed the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, to provide
for the 281 prevention and control of water pollution and the maintaining or
restoring of wholesomeness of water, for the establishment, with a view to
carrying out the purposes aforesaid of Boards for the prevention and control of
water pollution, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and
functions relating thereto and for matters connected therewith Sections 16 and
17 of the Act describes the functions of the Central and the State Board. The
Act was adopted by the State of Uttar Pradesh. In addition, Parliament also
passed the Environmental (Prevention) Act, 1986 which came into effect from
November, 1986 throughout India. [288B-D; 289A, F]
Notwithstanding the comprehensive provisions contained in the Act of 1974, no
effective steps appear to have been taken by the State Board so far to prevent
the discharge of effluents of the Jajmau near Kanpur to the river Ganga. The
fact that such effluents are being first discharged into the municipal sewerage
does not absolve the tanneries from being proceeded against under the
provisions of the law in force since ultimately the effluents reach the river
Ganga from the sewerage system of the municipality.
much has been done even under the Act of 1986 by the Central Government to stop
the grave public nuisance caused by the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur. [289-E;
There is no doubt that the discharge of the trade effluents from the tanneries
into the river Ganga has been causing considerable damage to the life of the
people who use the water of the river and also to the aquatic life in the
river. The effluents discharged from a tannery is 10 times noxious when
compared with the domestic sewage which flows into the river from any urban
area on its banks. The tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur cannot be allowed to continue
to carry on the industrial activity unless they take steps to establish primary
treatment plant. [298E-F] No doubt it may not be possible for the tanneries to
establish immediately the secondary system plant in view of the large expenses
involved, but having regard to the adverse effect the effluents are having on
the river water, the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur, should at least set up
primary treatment plants, which is the minimum that the tanneries should do in
the circumstances of the case. The financial capacity of the tanneries should
be considered as irrelevant while requiring them to establish primary treatment
plants. Just like an industry which cannot pay minimum wages to its workers
cannot be allowed to exist, a tannery, which cannot set up a primary treatment
plant, cannot be permitted to continue to be in existence for the adverse 282
effect on the public at large which is likely to ensue by the discharging of
the trade effluents from the tannery to the river Ganga would be immense and it
will outweigh any inconvenience that may be caused to the management and the
labour employed by it on account of its closure. Moreover, the tanneries
involved in this case are not taken by surprise. For several years they are
being asked to take necessary steps to prevent the flow of untreated water from
their factories into the river. Some of them have already complied with the
In cases of this nature this Court may issue appropriate directions if it finds
that the public nuisance or other wrongful act affecting or likely to affect
public is being committed and the statutory authorities which are charged with
the duty to prevent it are not taking adequate steps to rectify the grivevance.
For every breach of right there should be a remedy. [298F-G] It is unfortunate
that a number of tanneries at Jajmau even though they are aware of these
proceedings have not cared even to enter appearance in this Court to express
their willingness to take appropriate steps to establish the pretreatment plants.
So far as they are concerned, they are directed to stop running of their
tanneries and also not to let out trade effluents either directly or indirectly
into the river Ganga without subjecting the trade effluents to a pretreatment
process by setting up primary treatment plants as approved by the State Board
with effect from October 1, 1987. Time granted till 31.3.1988 to other
tanneries who are members of the Hindustan Chambers of Commerce and the other
tanneries to establish primary treatment plants within six months. If any of
these tanneries does not set up a primary treatment plant within 31.3.1988 such
a tannery will stop business with effect from 1.4.1988. [298G-H; 299D, G-H;
Such of those tanneries who have already put up primary treatment plants may
continue running provided they keep the plants in sound working order.[299Fl
The Central Government, the Uttar Pradesh Board, established under the
provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the
District Magistrate, Kanpur are directed to enforce this order. [30OB l Per
Singh, J: (supplementing) The pollution of the river Ganga is affecting the
life, health and 283 ecology of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The (Government as
well as Parliament both have taken a number of steps to control the water
pollution, but nothing substantial has been achieved. No law or authority can
succeed in removing the pollution unless the people cooperate. It is the sacred
duty of all those who reside or carry on business around the river Ganga to
ensure the purity of Ganga. Tanneries at Jajmau area near Kanpur have been
polluting the Ganga in a big way. Though notices were issued many
industrialists have not bothered either to respond to the notice or to take
elementary steps for the treatment of industrial effluent before discharging
the same into the river. Those tanneries which have failed to take minimum
steps required for the primary treatment of industrial effluent are directed to
be closed. No doubt closure of tanneries may bring unemployment, loss of
revenue, but life, health and ecology have greater importance to the people.
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition No. 3727 of 1985 Under Article 32 of the
Constitution of India.
Datta, Additional Solicitor General, R.P. Kapur, P.P Singh and Ms. A Subhashini
for Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 R.A. Gupta for Respondent No. 87.
Dholakia, Deepak K. Thakur, Mukul Mudgal and P. Narasimhan for Respondent No.
89. Miss Bina Gupta, B.P. Singh, S.R. Srivastava, Krishan Kumar, Vineet Kumar,
R. Mohan, Mrs. Shobha Dikshit, A. Sharan, D. Goburdhan, Mrs. G.S. Mishra,
Parijat Sinha, R.C. Verma, R.P. Singh, Ranjit Kumar, R.B. Mehrotra, Manoj
Swarup & Co. Raj Birbal, J.B.D. & Co. S.S. Khanduja, B.P Singh, E.C.
Aggrawala, Khaitan & Co., A.K. Srivastava, Swarup John & Co., Mehta
Dave, R.S. Sodhi, Subodh Markandey, T.V.S.N. Chari, Ashok Grover, Narain and
P.C. Kapur for the Respondents. B.R.L. Iyenger and Surya Kant for the
Judgment of the Court was delivered by VENKATARAMIAH, J. This is a public
interest litigation The 284 petitioner who is an active social worker has filed
this petition inter alia for the issue of a writ/order/direction in the nature
of mandamus to the respondents other than Respondents 1, and 7 to 9 restraining
them from letting out the trade effluents into the river Ganga till such time
they put up necessary treatment plants for treating the trade effluents in
order to arrest the pollution of water in the said river. Respondent 1 is the
Union of India, Respondent 7 is the Chairman of the Central Board for
Prevention and Control of Pollution, Respondent 8 is the Chairman, Uttar
Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Respondent 9 is the Indian Standards Institute.
is the most important of the elements of nature.
valleys are the credles of civilization from beginning of the world. Aryan
civilization grew around the towns and villages on the banks of the river
Ganga. Varanasi which is one of the cities on the banks of the river Ganga is
considered to be one of the oldest human settlements in the world. It is the
popular belief that the river Ganga is the purifier of all but we are now led
to the situation that action has to be taken to prevent the pollution of the
water of the river Ganga since we have reached a stage that any further
pollution of the river water is likely to lead to a catastrophe. There are
today large towns inhabited by millions of people on the banks of the river
Ganga. There are also large industries on its banks. Sewage of the towns and
cities on the banks of the river and the trade effluents of the factories and
other industries are continuously being discharged into the river. It is the
complaint of the petitioner that neither the Government nor the people are
giving adequate attention to stop the pollution of the river Ganga. Steps have,
therefore, to be taken for the purpose of protecting the cleanliness of the
stream in the river Ganga, which is in fact the life sustainer of a large part
of the northern India.
this petition came up for preliminary hearing, the Court directed the issue of
notice under order 1 rule 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure treating this case
as a representative action by publishing the gist of the petition in the
newspapers in circulation in northern India and calling upon all the
industrialists and the municipal corporations and the town municipal councils
having jurisdiction over the areas through which the river Ganga flows to
appear before the Court and to show cause as to why directions should not be
issued to them as prayed by the petitioner asking them not to allow the trade
effluents and the sewage into the river Ganga without appropriately treating
them before discharging them into the river.
to the said notice a large number of industrialists and local bodies have
entered 285 appearance before the Court. Some of them have filed
counteraffidavits explaining the steps taken by them for treating the trade
effluents before discharging t-hem into the river. When the above case came up
for consideration before the Court on the last date of hearing we directed that
the case against the tanneries at Jajmau area near Kanpur would be taken up for
hearing first. Respondents 14 to 87 and 89 are the tanneries near Kanpur. Of
them respondents 16 to 32, 34 to 36, 43, 47, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57, 58, 60 to 62,
64, 67 to 69, 72, 74, 75, 77 to 82, 85, 87 and 89 are represented by counsel.
The remaining tanneries did not appear before the Court at the time of the
hearing nor were they represented by any counsel.
proceeding to consider the facts of this case it is necessary to state a few
words about the importance of and need for protecting our environment. Article
48-A of the Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to protect and
improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the
country. Article 51-A of the Constitution imposes as one of the fundamental
duties on every citizen the duty to protect and improve the natural environment
including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for
living creatures. The proclamation adopted by the United Nations Conference on
the Human Environment which took place at Stockholm from 5th to 16th of June,
1972 and in which the Indian delegation led by the Prime Minister of India took
a leading role runs thus:
Man is both creature and molder of his environment which gives him physical
sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and
spiritual growth. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this
planet a stage has been reached when through the rapid acceleration of science
and technology, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in
countless ways and on an unprecedented scale. Both aspects of man's
environment, the natural and the man-made, are essential to his well-being and
to the enjoyment of basic human rights-even the right to life itself.
The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which
affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the
world; it is the urgent desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty
of all Governments.
Man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing,
creating and advancing. In our time man's capability to transform his
surroundings, if used wisely, can bring to all peoples the benefits of
development and the opportunity to enhance the quality of life. Wrongly or
heedlessly applied, the same power can do incalculable harm to human beings and
the human environment. We see around us growing evidence of man-made harm in
many regions of the earth; dangerous levels of pollution in water, air, earth
and living beings; major and undesirable disturbances to the ecological balance
of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of irreplaceable resources; and
gross deficiencies harmful to the physical, mental and social health of man, in
the man-made environment; particularly in the living and working environment.
point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the
world with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences. Through
ignorance or indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly
environment on which our life and well- being depend. Conversely, through
fuller knowledge and wiser action, we can achieve for ourselves and our
posterity a better life in an environment more in keeping with human needs and
hopes. There are broad vistas for the enhancement of environmental quality and
the creation of a good life. What is needed is an enthusiastic but calm state
of mind and intense but orderly work. For the purpose of attaining freedom in
the world of nature, man must use knowledge to build in collaboration with
nature a better environment. To defend and improve the human environment for
present and future generations has become an imperative goal for mankind-a goal
to be pursued together with, and in harmony with, the established and
fundamental goals of peace and of world-wide economic and social development.
achieve this environmental goal will demand the acceptance of responsibility by
citizens and communities and by enterprises and institutions at every level,
all sharing equitably in common efforts. Individuals in all walks of life as
well as organizations in many fields, by their values and the sum of their
actions, will shape the world environment of the future. Local and National
Governments will bear the greatest burden for large-scale environmental policy
and action within their jurisdictions. International co-operation is also
needed in order to raise resources to support the developing countries carrying
out their responsibilities in this field. A growing class of environmental
problems, because they are regional or global in extent or because they affect
the common international realm, will require extensive co-operation among
nations and action by international organizations in the common interest. The
Conference calls upon the Governments and peoples to exert common efforts for
the preservation and improvement of the human environment, for the benefit of
all the people and for their posterity." The proclamation also contained
certain common convictions of the participant nations and made certain
recommendations on development and environment. The common convictions stated
include the conviction that the discharge of toxic substances or of other
substances and the release of heat in such quantities or concentrations as to
exceed the capacity of environment to render them harmless must be halted in
order to ensure that serious or irreversible damage is not inflicted upon eco
systems, that States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the
seas so that hazards to human health, harm to living resources and marine life,
damage to the amenities or interference with other legitimate uses of seas is
avoided that the environmental policies would enhance and not adversely affect
the present and future development potential of development countries, that
science and technology as part of their contributions to economic and social
development must be applied with identification, avoidance and control of
environmental risks and the solution of environmental problems and for the
common good of mankind, that States have the responsibility to ensure that
activities of exploitation of their own resources within their jurisdiction are
controlled and do not cause damage to the environment of other States or areas
beyond the limit of national jurisdiction, that it will be essential in all
cases to consider the systems of values prevailing in each country and the
extent of the applicability of standards which are valid for the most advanced
countries but which may be inappropriate 288 and of unwarranted social cost and
that man and his environment must be spared the effects of nuclear weapons and
all other means of mass destruction. These are only some of the statements of
principles proclaimed by the Stockholm Conference.
Lal's Commentaries on Water and Air Pollution Laws (2nd Edn. ) pages 6-7
Realising the importance of the prevention and control of pollution of water
for human existence Parliament has passed the Water (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1974 (Act 6 of 1974) (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') to
provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and the maintaining
or restoring of wholesomeness of water, for the establishment, with a view to
carrying out the purposes aforesaid, of Boards for the prevention and control
of water pollution, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and
functions relating thereto and for matters connected therewith. The Act was
passed pursuant to resolutions passed by all the Houses of Legislatures of the
States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir,
Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal under
clause (1) of Article 252 of the Constitution to the effect that the prevention
and control of water pollution should be regulated in those States by
Parliamentary legislation. The Act has been since adopted by the State of Uttar
Pradesh also by resolutions passed in that behalf by the Houses of Legislature
of the said State in the year 1975 (vide notification No. 897/ix-3-l00-74 dated
3.2.1975). Section 24 of the Act prohibits the use of any stream or well for
disposal of polluting matter etc. It provides that subject to the provisions of
the said section no person shall knowingly cause or permit any poisonous,
noxious or polluting matter determined in accordance with such standards as may
be laid down by the State Board to enter whether directly or indirectly into
any stream or well or no person shall knowingly cause or permit to enter into
any stream any other matter which may tend either directly or in combination
with similar matters to impede the proper flow of the water of the stream in a
manner leading or likely to lead to a substantial aggravation of pollution due
to other causes or of its consequences. The expression stream is defined by
section 2(j) of the Act as including river, water course whether flowing or for
the time being dry, inland water whether natural or artificial, sub-terra nean
waters, sea or tidal waters to such extent or as the case may be to such point
as the State Government may by notification in the official Gazette, 289
specify in that behalf. Under the Act it is permissible to establish a Central
Board and the State Boards. The functions of the Central Board and the State Boards
are described in section 16 and 17 respectively. One of the functions of the
State Board is to inspect sewage or trade effluents, works and plants for the
treatment of sewage and trade effluents, and to review plans, specifications or
other data relating to plants set up for the treatment of water, works for the
purification and the system for the disposal of sewage or trade effluents.
'Trade effluent' includes any liquid, gaseous or solid substance which is
discharged from any premises used for carrying on any trade or industry, other
than domestic sewage. The State Board is also entrusted with the work of laying
down standards of treatment of sewage and trade effluents to be discharged into
any particular stream taking into account the minimum fair weather dilution
available in that stream and the tolerance limits of pollution permissible in
the water of the stream, after the discharge of such effluents. The State Board
is also entrusted with the power of making application to courts for restraining
apprehended pollution of water in streams or wells. Notwithstanding the
comprehensive provisions contained in the Act no effective steps appear to have
been taken by the State Board so far to prevent the discharge of effluents of
the Jajmau near Kanpur to the river Ganga. The fact that such effluents are
being first discharged into the municipal sewerage does not absolve the
tanneries from being proceeded against under the provisions of the law in force
since ultimately the effluents reach the river Ganga from the sewerage system
of the municipality.
addition to the above Act, Parliament has also passed the Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986) which has been brought into force
throughout India with effect from November 19, 1986. Section 3 of this Act
confers power on the Central Government to take all such measures as it deems
necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality
of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental
includes water, air and land and the inter- relationship which exists among and
between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants,
micro-organism and property. (Vide section 2(a) of the Environment (Protection)
Act, 1986). Under Section 3(2)(iv) of the said Act the Central Government may
lay down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from
various sources whatsoever. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law
but subject to the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the
Central Government may under section S of the 290 Act, in the exercise of its
powers and performance of its functions under that Act issue directions in
writing to any person, officer or authority and such authority is bound to
comply with such directions. The power to issue directions under the said
section includes the power to direct the closure, prohibition or regulation of
any industry, operation or process or stoppage or regulation of the supply of
electricity or water or any other service. Section 9 of the said Act imposes a
duty on every person to take steps to prevent or mitigate the environmental
pollution. Section 15 of the said Act contains provisions relating to penalties
that may be imposed for the contravention of any of the provisions of the said
Act or directions issued there under.
is to be noticed that not much has been done even under this Act by the Central
Government to stop the grave public nuisance caused by the tanneries at Jajmau,
the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur which were represented by counsel, except
respondent Nos. 87 and 89 have relied upon a common counter-affidavit filed by
them and their case is argued by Shri S.K. Dholakia and Shri Mukul Mudgal.
Respondent No. 87 is represented by Shri R.P. Gupta and respondent No. 89 is
represented by Shri P. Narasimhan. There is not much dispute on the question
that the discharge of the trade effluents from these tanneries into the river
Ganga has been causing considerable damage to the life of the people who use
the water of the river Ganga and also to the aquatic life in the river. The
tanneries at Jajmau in Kanpur have themselves formed an association called
Jajmau Tanners Pollution Control Association with the objects among others:
To establish, equip and maintain laboratories, workshop, institutes,
organisations and factories for conducting and carrying on p experiments and to
provide funds for the main objects of the Company.
To procure and import wherever necessary the chemicals etc. for the purpose of
pollution control in tanning industries.
To set up and maintain common effluent treatment plant for member tanners in
and around Jajmau.
To make periodical charges on members for the effluent treatment based on the
benefit he/it derives from time to time to meet the common expenses for
maintenance, replacement incurred towards effluent treatment.
In the Fiscal Plan for setting up common Effluent Treatment Plants for Indian
Tanning Industry-(March, 1986) prepared by the committee constituted by the
Directorate General of Technical Development (Government of India) it is
observed thus:- "Leather industry is one of the three major industries
besides paper and textiles consuming large quantities of water for processing
of hides and skins into leather Naturally most of the water used is discharged
as wastewater. The wastewater contains putrescible organic and toxic inorganic
materials which when discharged as such will deplete dissolved oxygen content
of the receiving water courses resulting in the death of all acquatic life and
emanating foul odour. Disposal of these untreated effluents on to land will
pollute the ground water resources. Discharging of these effluents without
treatment into public sewers results in the choking of sewers.
the importance of keeping the environment clean, the Government of India has
enacted the Water Pollution Control Act (Central Act 6 of 1974) and almost all
the State Government have adopted the Act and implementing the Act by forming
the Pollution Control Boards in their respective states. The Pollution Control
Boards have been insisting that all industries have to treat their effluents to
the prescribed standards and leather industry is no exception to this rule.
situated all over the country have been faced with the problem of treating
their effluents. Seized with the problem of finding out a solution, the Central
Leather Research Institute, Madras has brought out a Management Investment
Report (CLRI Core Committee Report) as early as 1976 which contains 14 flow
sheets indicating the treatment technologies for various types of leather
processing techniques, quantity of effluents etc. including the cost of
treatment." A monograph entitled 'Treatment Technology of Tannery
Effluents' prepared by S. Rajamani, W. Madavakrishna and G. Thyagarajan of the
Central Leather Research Institute, Adyar, Madras states that generally the
wastewater from beam house process namely soaking, liming, deliming etc. are
highly alkaline containing decomposing organic matter, hair, lime sulphide etc.
and is nearly ten times as strong as domestic sewage and refers to the various
methods 292 by which the effluents of the tanneries could be treated before
their discharge into any river. They recommend four types of wastewater
treatment technology so far as the tanneries are concerned -1) segregation or
mixing of suitable sectional waste water from different processes; (2) primary
treatment; (3) secondary biological treatment; and (4) disposal of solid wastes
from the treatment system. The said monograph explains the work at the primary
treatment unit thus:- "The primary treatment units principally comprise of
coarse screens, two numbers of settling tanks and sludge drying beds. The
settling tank, each of about 1-2 days capacity acts as an equalisation-
cum-setting tank as well. As an alternative, clarifier can be provided in place
of settling tank for treating higher capacity effluents.
on the quality of composite effluent, addition of neutralising chemicals like
lime, alum, ferric chloride etc. would be required for effective precipitation
of chromium and removal of suspended solids in the sedimentation process. The
sludge from the settling tanks and clarifier is removed and dried on sludge
drying beds made up of filtering media gravel, sand and supporting masonary
structure. For operational reasons, sludge drying beds are divided into four or
more compartments. The dried sludge from the sludge drying beds can be used as
manure or for landfill if it is vegetable tannery waste. In case of chrome
tannery waste, the dried sludge should be buried or disposed off suitably as
per the directions of regulatory agencies and local bodies. " The
secondary treatment units are explained in the said monograph thus:
pre-treated effluent needs suitable secondary biological treatment to meet the
pollution control standards. The general biological treatment units which can
be adopted under Indian conditions are anaerobic lagoon, aerated lagoon,
extended aeration systems like oxidation ditch, activated sludge process etc.
lagoon is a simple anaerobic treatment unit suitable for effluents with high
BOD like vegetable tannery (Raw to E. 1) wastewater. In depth of the lagoon
varies from 3-5 metres and detention time from l0-20 days 293 depending upon
the pollutional load and atmospheric conditions. This is an open type digester
with no provision for gas collection. No power is required for this system and
its performance is proved to be efficient in South Indian conditions.
contract filter is also an anaerobic treatment unit. This is a closed tank type
unit made up of R.C.C. Or masonry structure filled up with media like broken
granite stones etc. This unit occupies less land area since the detention time
is about 1-2 days only. This system is reported to be efficient for treating
high organic load, but the capital cost would be comparatively high.
lagoon is a shallow water tight pond of about 2-3 metres depth with a detention
time of about 4-6 days. Fixed or floating type surface aerators are provided to
transfer oxygen from atmospheric air to the effluent for biological treatment
using micro-organisms under aerobic conditions. The system is suitable for
treating low organic load.
aeration systems like 'activated sludge process' and 'oxidation ditch' are the
improved aerobic biological treatment systems occupying less land area since
the detention time/capacity would be only about 1-2 days. These units require
secondary settling tank and sludge recirculation arrangements. Extended
aeration systems are proved to be efficient. The operational and maintenance
cost is comparatively high for smaller installations, but economical for
treatment capacity of 150 M3 and above per day. " A study of the
conditions prevailing at Jajmau, Kanpur was made by the Sub-Committee on
Effluent Disposal constituted by the Development Council for Leather and
Leather Goods Industries along with the various tanneries situated in some
other parts of India and in its report submitted in April, 1984, the
Sub-Committee has observed in the case of the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur
thus:- "In the case of Jajmau, Kanpur, the committee visited few tanneries
where the effort has been made to have primary treatment of the effluent before
it is dis- 294 charged to the common drain/the river Ganges.
are 60 tanneries in Jajmau which will be covered under joint effluent disposal.
The total production is to the tune of 12000 hides with a total discharge of 5
million litres per day. The State Government has taken appropriate steps in
preparation of the feasibility report under the guidance of U.P. Pollution
Control Board. This proposal was also supported by Central Pollution Board, Delhi
by sharing the total fee of Rs.80,000 to be paid to the Public Health
Engineering Consultancy, Bombay which has prepared the report with the help of
IIT, Bombay. The report suggests that each tannery should make arrangement for
the primary treatment of their effluent and then it will be discharged into
common treatment plant." There is a reference to the Jajmau tanneries in
'an Action Plan for Prevention of Pollution of the Ganga' prepared by the
Department of Environment, Government of India in the year 1985, which is as
under:- "1.1 The Ganga drains eight States Himachal Pradesh, Punjab,
Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and the
Union Territory of Delhi. It is also the most important river of India and has
served as the cradle of Indian Civilization. Several major pilgrim centres have
existed on its banks for centuries and millions of people come to bathe in the
river during religious festivals, especially the Kumbhs of Haridwar and
Allahabad. Many towns on the Ganga, e.g., Kanpur. Allahabad, Patna and Calcutta
have very large populations and the river also serves as the source of water
supply for these towns. The Ganga is, however, being grossly polluted
especially near the towns situated on its banks. Urgent steps need to be taken
to prevent this pollution and restore the purity of river water.
Sources of Pollution
The main sources of pollution of the Ganga are the following:- Urban liquid
waste (Sewage, storm drainage mixed with sewage, human, cattle and kitchen
wastes carried by drains etc. ) 295 Industrial liquid waste A Surface run-off
of cultivated land where cultivators use chemical fertilisers, pesticides,
insecticides and such manures the mixing of which may make the river water
unsafe for drinking and bathing.
run-off from areas on which urban solid wastes are dumped Surface run-off from
areas on which industrial solid wastes are dumped
Effluent from industries:
the laws of the land the responsibilty for treatment of the industrial
effluents is that of the industry. While the concept of 'Strict Liability'
should be adhered to in some cases, circumstances may require that plans for
sewerage and treatment systems should consider industrial effluents as well.
Clusters of small industries located in a contiguous area near the river bank
and causing direct pollution to the river such as the tanneries in Jajmau in
Kanpur is a case in point. In some cases, waste waters from some industrial
units may have already been connected to the city sewer and, therefore, merit
treatment along with the sewage in the sewage treatment plant. It may also be
necessary in some crowded areas to accept wastewaters of industries in a city
sewer to be fed to the treatment plant, provided the industrial waste is free
from heavy metals, toxic chemicals and is not abnormally acidic or alkaline.
such circumstances, scheme proposals have to carefully examine the case of
integrating or segregating industrial wastes for purposes of conveyance and
treatment as also the possibilities for appointment of capital and operating
costs between the city authorities and the industries concerned."
(emphasis added) Appearing on behalf of the Department of Environment,
(Government of India, Shri B. Dutta the learned Ist Additional H 296 Solicitor
General of India placed before us a memorandum explaining the existing
situation at Jajmau area of Kanpur.
reads thus: "Status regarding construction of treatment facilities for
treatment of wastes from Tanneries in Jajmau area of Kanpur.
About 70 small, medium and large tanneries are located in Jajmau area of
Kanpur. On an average they generate 4.5 MLD of waste water.
Under the existing laws, tanneries like other industries are expected to
provide treatment of their effluents to different standards depending on
whether these are discharged into stream or land. It is the responsibility of
the industry concerned to ensure that the quality of the wastewater conforms to
the standards laid down
From time to time, tanneries of Kanpur have re presented that due to lack of
physical facilities, technical knowhow and funds, it has not been possible to
install adequate treatment facilities.
Jajmau is an environmentally degraded area of Kanpur. The location of numerous
tanneries in the area is a major cause of the degradation.
facilities for water supply, sanitation, solid waste removal etc. are also
highly inadequate. Because the area abuts the Ganga river, its pollution
affects the river quality as well. Accordingly, under the Ganga Action Plan an
integrated sanitation project is being taken up for the Jajmau area. Some
aspects of the Plan relate to tannery wastes as follows:
The medium and large units will have to up pre treatment facilities to ensure
that the standard of sewage discharged into the municipal sewer also conform to
the standards laid down.
institutions such as Central Leather Research Institute are looking into the
possibility of pretreatment including recovery of materials such as chromium.
The setting up of pre- treatment facility in the respective units will be the
responsibility of the individual units concerned. The Ganga Project Directorate
as part of the Ganga Action Plan, will play a facilitative role to 297
demonstrate application of modern technologies for cost A effective
pre-treatment which the small tanners can afford.
Since the wastes will be ultimately discharged into the river, the waste will
have to further conform to the standards laid down for discharge into the
stream. For this purpose, it will be necessary to treat the waste further and
as part of the Ganga Action Plan a treatment plant will be constructed for this
purpose utilising some advanced processes. It is also proposed to combine the
domestic waste with the industrial waste conveyed through the industrial sewer
which will then be treated in a treatment plant (iii) It is estimated that cost
of this proposed sewage treatment facility which will treat the waste from the domestic
sources and the pretreated wastes from tanneries will be about Rs.2.5 crores.
It will have a capacity of 25 MLD and the first demonstration module of about 5
MLD is expected to be installed in early 1988-89.
work for designing of the plant has already been initiated and the
infrastructure facilities such as availability of land, soil testing etc. have
also been ensured. Tender specifications are being provided and it is expected
that the tenders will be floated sometime in October 87. It is expected that in
the combined treatment facility of 25 MLD, about 20 MLD will be from the
domestic sources and 5 MLD will be from the tanneries after pretreatment in the
region." In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the Hindustan
Chambers of Commerce, of which 43 respondents are members it is admitted that
the tanneries discharge their trade effluents into the sewage nullah which
leads to the municipal sewage plant before they are thrown into the river
Ganga. It is not disputed by any of the respondents that the water in the river
Ganga is being polluted grossly by the effluent discharged by the tanneries. We
are informed that six of the tanneries have already set up the primary
treatment plants for carrying out the pre-treatment of the effluent before it
is discharged into the municipal Sewerage which ultimately leads to the river
Ganga. About 14 of the tanneries are stated to be engaged in the construction
of the primary treatment plants. It is pleaded on behalf of the rest of the
tanneries who are the members of the Hindustan Chambers of Commerce and three
other tanneries represented by Shir Mukul Mudgal that if some time is given to
them to establish the pre-treatment plants they would H 298 do so. lt is,
however, submitted by all of them that it would not be possible for them to
have the secondary system for treating wastewater as that would involve
enormous expenditure which the tanneries themselves would not be able to meet.
It is true that it may not be possible for the tanneries to establish immediately
the secondary system plant in view of the large expenditure involved but having
regard to the adverse effect the effluents are having on the river water, the
tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur should, at least set up of the primary treatment
plants and that is the minimum which the tanneries should do in the
circumstances of the case. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the
Hindustan Chamber of Commerce it is seen that the cost of pretreatment plant
for a 'A' class tannery is Rs.3,68,000, the cost of the plant for a 'B' class
tannery is Rs.2,30,000 and the cost of the plant for 'C' class tannery is
Rs.50,000 This cost does not appear to be excessive. The financial capacity of
the tanneries should be considered as irrelevant while requiring them to
establish primary treatment plants.
like an industry which cannot pay minimum wages to its workers cannot be
allowed to exist a tannery which cannot set up a primary treatment plant cannot
be permitted to continue to be in existence for the adverse effect on the
public at large which is likely to ensue by the discharging of the trade
effluents from the tannery to the river Ganga would be immense and it will
outweigh any inconvenience that may be caused to the management and the labour
employed by it on account of its closure. Moreover, the tanneries involved in
these cases are not taken by surprise. For several years they are being asked
to take necessary steps to prevent the flow of untreated wastewater from their
factories into the river. Some of them have already complied with the demand.
It should be remembered that the effluent discharged from a tannery is ten
times noxious when compared with the domestic sewage water which flows into the
river from any urban areas on its banks. We feel that the tanneries at Jajmau,
Kanpur cannot be allowed to continue to carry on the industrial activity unless
they take steps to establish primary treatment plants. In cases of this nature
this Court may issue appropriate directions if it finds that the public nuisance
or other wrongful act affecting or likely to affect the public is being
committed and the statutory authorities who are charged with the duty to
prevent it are not taking adequate steps to rectify the grievance. For every
breach of a right there should be a remedy. It is unfortunate that a number of
tanneries at Jajmau even though they are aware of these proceedings have not
cared even to enter appearance in this Court to express their willingness to
take appropriate steps to establish the pretreatment plants. So far as they are
concerned an order directing them to stop working their tanneries should be
We accordingly direct M/s. Delight Tannery (respondent 14), M/s. Hindustan
Tannery (respondent 15), M/s. Primer Allarmin Tannery (respondent 33), M/s.
Mahaboob Tannery (respondent 37), M/s. Popular Tannery (respondent 38), M/s.
Standard Tannery (respondent 39), M/s. Vikash Tarmery (respondent 40), M/s. New
Golden Tannery (respondent 41), M/s. D.D. Tannery (respondent 42), M/s.
Himalaya Tannery (respondent 44), M/s. Commercial Industry (respondent 45),
M/s. Madina Tannery (respondent 46), M/s. Kanpur Tannery (respondent 48), M/s.
New Jab Tannery (respondent 49), M/s. Famous Tannery (respondent 50), M/s.
Glaxy Tannery (respondent 53), M/s. Bengal Tannery (respondent 56), M/s.
Chhangal Tannery (respondent 59), M/s.Nadari Tannery (respondent 63), M/s.
Jajmau Tanners (respondent 65), M/s. International Tanning Industry (respondent
66), M/s. Poorwanchal Tanning Industry (respondent 70), M/s. Navratan Tanning
(respondent 71), M/s.
Tannery (respondent 73), M/s. Himalaya Tanners (respondent 76), M/s. R.A.
Traders (respondent 79, M/s. Alam Tannery (respondent 83), M/s. G.T. Tannery
(respondent 84), and M/s. Awadh Tannery (respondent 86) to stop the running of
their tanneries and also not to let out trade effluents from their tanneries
either directly or indirectly into the river Ganga without subjecting the trade
effluents to a pretreatment process by setting up primary treatment plants as
approved by the State Board (respondent 8) with effect from 1. l0.1987.
Indian Tanning Industry (respondent 30), the U.P. Tannery (respondent 19), M/s.
Zaz Tannery (respondent 28), M/s. Super Tannery India Ltd. (respondent 21),
M/s. Shewan Tannery (respondent 20), M/s. Pioneer Tannery (respondent 23), and
M/s. M.K.J. Corporation (respondent 89) who have already put up the primary
treatment plants may continue to carry on production in their factories subject
to the condition that they should continue to keep the primary treatment plants
established by them in sound working order.
S.K. Dholakia, learned counsel for the other tanneries who are members of the
Hindustan Chambers of Commerce and the other tanneries who have entered
appearance through Shri Mukul Mudgal submits that they will establish primary
treatment plants within six months and he further submits that in the event of
their not completing the construction of the primary treatment plants as
approved by the State Board (respondent 8) and bringing them into operation
within the period of six months the said tanneries will stop carrying on their
business. We record the statement made by the learned counsel and grant them
time till 31.3.1988 to set up the primary treatment plants. If 300 any of these
tanneries does not set up a primary treatment plant within 31.3.1988 it is
directed to stop its business with effect from 1.4.1988.
issue a direction to the Central Government, the Uttar Pradesh Board,
established under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1974 and the District Magistrate, Kanpur to enforce our order
faithfully. Copies of this order shall be cent to them for information The case
is adjourned to 27th October, 1987 to consider the case against the municipal
bodies in the State of Uttar Pradesh having jurisdiction over the areas through
which the river Ganga is passing.
J. I respectfully agree with every word what my learned brother Venkataramiah,
J. has stated in the proposed order and the directions issued by that order.
However, I wish to add few words.
river Ganga is one of the greatest rivers of the world, although its entire
course is only 1560 miles from its source in Himalaya to the sea. There are
many rivers larger in shape and longer in size but no river in the world has
been so great as the Ganga. It is great because to millions of people since
centuries it is the most sacred river. It is called "Sursari" river
of the Gods, 'Patitpawani' purifier of all sins and 'Ganga Ma' Mother Ganges.
To millions of Hindus, it is the most sacred, most venerated river on earth.
According the Hindu belief and mythology to bathe in it, is to wash away guilt,
to drink the water, having bathed in it, and to carry it away in containers for
those who may have not had the good fortune to make the pilgrimage, to it, is
meritorious. To be cremated on its banks, or to die there, and to have one's
ashes cast on its waters, is the wish of every Hindu. Many P saints and sages
have persued their quest for knowledge and enlightenment on the banks of the
river Ganga. Its water has not only purified the body and soul of the millions
but it has given fertile land to the country in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Ganga
has been used as means of water transport for trade and commerce. The Indian
civilization of the Northern India thrived in the plains of Ganga and most of
the important towns and places of pilgrimage are situated on its banks. The
river Ganga has been part of Hindu civilization.
Jawahar Lal Nehru who did not consider himself a devout Hindu gave expression
to his feelings for the Ganga that is to be found in his Will and Testament, a
short extract from which is as under:
desire to have a handful of my ashes thrown into the 301 Ganga at Allahabad has
no religious significance, so far as I am concerned. I have no religious
sentiment in the matter. I have been attached to the Ganga and the Jamuna
rivers in Allahabad ever since my childhood and, as I have grown older, this
attachment has also grown.
have watched their varying moods as the seasons changed, and have often thought
of the history and myth and tradition and song and story that have become
attached to them through the long ages and become part of their flowing waters.
The Ganga, especially, as the river of India, beloved of her people, round
which are intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of
triumph, her victories and her defeats.
has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and civilization, ever-changing,
ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga. She reminds me of the snow-covered
peaks and the deep valleys of the Himalayas, which I have loved so much, and of
the rich and vast plains below, where my life and work have been cast."
The river Ganga is the life line of millions of people of India, Indian culture
and civilization has grown around it. This great river drains of eight States
of India, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya
Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Ganga has always been an integral part of
the nation's history, culture and environment. It has been the source of
sustenance of the millions of people who have lived on its banks from time
of our people bathe in the Ganga drink its water under an abiding faith and
belief to purify themselves and to achieve moksha release from the cycle of
birth and death. It is tragic that the Ganga, which has since time immemorial,
purified the people are being polluted by man in numerous ways, by dumping of
garbage, throwing carcass of dead animals and discharge of effluents.
Scientific investigations and survey reports have shown that the Ganga which
serves one-third of the India's population is polluted by the discharge of
municipal sewage and the industrial effluents in the river. The pollution of
the river Ganga is affecting the life, health, and ecology of the Indo-Gangetic
Plain. The Government as well as Parliament both have taken a number of steps
to control the water pollution, but nothing substantial has been achieved. I
need not refer to those steps as my learned brother has referred to them in
detail. No law or authority can succeed in removing the pollution unless the
people cooperate. To my mind, it is the sacred duty of all those who reside or
carry on business around 302 the river Ganga to ensure the purity of Ganga.
Tanneries at Jajmau area near Kanpur have been polluting the Ganga in a big
way. This Court issued notices to them but in spite of notice many
industrialists have not bothered either to respond to the notice or to take
elementary steps for the treatment of industrial effluent before discharging
the same into the river. We are therefore issuing the directions for the
closure of those tanneries which have failed to take minimum steps required for
the primary treatment of industrial effluent. We are conscious that closure of
tanneries may bring unemployment, loss of revenue, but life, health and ecology
have greater importance to the people.