The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Haryana government to respond to a plea by the Delhi Jal Board to ensure unhindered supply of Yamuna water to the national capital as per an earlier order in view of the impending summer.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma was informed that in spite of an order passed by the high court in May 2019 directing removal of illegal bundhs or blockades from the river, images from last month clearly showed such structures blocking the water flow.
The application by the board was filed in a 2013 PIL by lawyer S B Tripathi seeking sufficient water supply for Delhi.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the board, said the present application was not for any increase in water allocation or any extra water but only sought implementation of the existing judicial directions on removal of blockades.
The court, during the course of the hearing, asked the Delhi Jal Board if the matter should be heard by the Supreme Court on account of it being an inter-state water dispute.
The senior lawyer, however, said the instant case was only a “policing matter” and did not require adjudication of any inter-state water dispute.
“There is an existing order. I am not asking for increased allocation or any extra water… This is only a follow up of that (earlier) order in light of the summer on our head,” Singhvi submitted.
The bench, also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad, asked the Haryana government to file its response to the plea and listed the case for further hearing on May 10.
It also asked the Haryana government to respond to another application by the board seeking a direction to a court-appointed committee in the matter to file a fresh report with respect to the quality and flow of Yamuna water from Haryana to Delhi in terms of the earlier order of 2019.
The counsel for the Haryana government said the high court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the state is complying with the directions passed in the case.
“Every year an IA (interlocutory application) is filed and the main petition is not heard,” he said.
In 2019, the Haryana government had submitted in the matter that the high court had no jurisdiction to decide on its dispute with Delhi over sharing of the water from river Yamuna and the Upper River Yamuna Board (URYB) was the appropriate body to decide the water sharing dispute between the two states.
The court asked the Haryana government to file its response to the latest board’s assertions.
“Let them file a reply to the IAs,” the court said.
On May 24, 2019, the high court had directed the Haryana government to ensure water is supplied to the national capital without any hindrance after it was told there were “bundhs” on river Yamuna at several places apart from mining activity.
The high court had directed the State of Haryana to ensure the supply of adequate water to the capital and immediately remove any illegal “bundhs” or blockades while monitoring the river through live Google mapping.
It had also directed the Delhi government/Delhi Jal Board to monitor the existence of bundhs/blockades through live Google mapping and also monitor their removal by the State of Haryana.
The directions had come after a committee, constituted by the high court to inspect whether bundhs, said such obstructions were found at 11 locations on the river Yamuna.
The committee, also comprising retired high court judge Justice Indermeet Kaur and amicus curiae Rakesh Khanna, had submitted a report which stated that apart from the bundhs, there was large scale mining in river Yamuna and one of its tributaries — Somb, and the structures “have definitely affected the flow of water in the river Yamuna”.
The Delhi Jal Board, also represented by advocate Sumit Chander, said in its recent application that the authorities have failed to comply with the directions issued by the high court with respect to illegal bundhs and blockades.
“The recent photographs of 04.03.2023 taken from physical onsite photos as well as through the GPS Map Camera through Google Satellite images which clearly show the bundhs over the river Yamuna that are blocking the water flow. The said Bundhs are being used as a motor-way,” the application stated.
The board further claimed in the application that the water coming from Haryana contained several pollutants, which required intervention of the court, and surveys showed that the main source of pollution in Yamuna River was Haryana.
“Earlier in December 2022, the Delhi State was receiving from Respondent No. 4 (Haryana), water containing 0.4 mg/l level of Ammonical nitrogen. This level has since increased to 6.8 mg/l level of Ammonical nitrogen in water as on 28.03.2023. Such level of ammonical nitrogen in water is extremely dangerous,” it said.
“The present flow of water from Yamuna River coming from Haryana State consist of extremely high value of Biochemical Oxygen Demand and Coliform… The water from Yamuna River also consists of high level of septage, sewage and industrial waste,” added the plea.
Haryana, without paying any heed to the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, is continuously polluting the Yamuna river and depriving the residents of Delhi of clean water, it said.