The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to 24 states and four Union Territories, including Nagaland, addressing concerns related to the presence of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater. The tribunal, recognizing the severity of the issue, has stressed the need for “urgent preventive and protective steps” against these harmful elements.
This move comes in response to the NGT’s suo motu cognizance of a media report highlighting the exceeding levels of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater in various regions of states and Union Territories.
According to PTI, the tribunal in December 2023 pointed out that a recent report indicated the presence of arsenic in groundwater in 230 districts across 25 states, while fluoride was found in certain areas of 469 districts in 27 states. The Central Ground Water Authority, responsible for groundwater regulation, acknowledged the existence of these elements in the districts and states, conceding their severe toxic effects on health.
A bench of Judicial Member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Expert Member A Senthil Vel said the Central Ground Water Authority had also submitted a report in which it admitted the presence of arsenic and fluoride in the districts and the states.
“It is also admitted that both the chemicals or metals have very serious toxic effects on the human body and health and cause health hazards,” the bench said.
It said the Central Ground Water Authority, responsible for regulating groundwater, did not take any independent steps on the grounds that water is a state subject.
But its contention had been rejected by a 1997 Supreme Court verdict and a 2022 tribunal order, the bench said.
Expressing surprise at the continued evasion of statutory responsibilities, the tribunal emphasized the urgency of addressing the issue across the concerned authorities. The NGT identified 28 states and Union Territories, along with the Central Ground Water Authority and the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, as parties or respondents in the matter.
“Let notices be issued to all the above respondents,” the bench said, seeking their response within a month.
The states to which notices were issued are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Notices were also issued to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Delhi and Puducherry. The matter has been listed for further proceedings on February 15.