Before long, tourists to Puri may be charged ‘polluters’ pay’ to meet the costs of cleaning up behind them. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Tuesday, set up a committee headed by the chief secretary of Odisha to look into the pollution at Puri and consider whether ‘polluters’ pay’ may be charged from tourists. Puri is one of the most preferred destinations for the Bengali.
Lakhs of people from the state visit the seaside town where the famous Sri Jagannath Temple is located. A visit to Puri is considered both a pilgrimage and a fun trip by the sea. However, this has taken its toll on the environment. A recent study conducted by the Odisha Pollution Control Board (OPCB) has revealed that municipal solid waste processed has gone up to 11,469 metric tonnes from 7,844 metric tonnes in 2010-11. Polythene, plastic carry bags and pet bottles comprise nearly 50% of this, the OPCB has found.
The inspecting team also found that the sewage collection, treatment and disposal practice at Pejanallah (in Puri) is inadequate and the efforts made by Puri Municipality are unsatisfactory, the study has revealed. The waste water that flows out from the kitchen of the Sri Jagannath Temple has also found to be extremely toxic in nature. Environment activist Subhas Datta, who had filed the application before the NGT, had pointed out that the kitchen in the temple is posing a hazard to the heritage structure.
The OPCB report submitted to the NGT has revealed that the Total Soluble Solids (TSS) in the water that drains out of the Sri Jagannath Temple Rosasala (kitchen) into the municipal drain in Puri is 4,830 mg/l as against the permissible limit of 200 mg/l. The Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the water is 10,200 mg/l as against the permissible limit of 75 mg/l. The Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) was 20,159 mg/l against provided standard of 250 mg/l.
After going through the report, the NGT remarked on Tuesday: “The water quality parameters are not only beyond those prescribed but show devastating results. Ambient air quality (PM10) at Swargadwar was found to be 727 µg/m³ as against permissible standard of 100 µg/m³ in one direction and 464 µg/m³ in South West direction. Ambient air quality (PM2.5) was found to be 435 µg/m³ as against the norm of 60 µg/m³. In the OPCB report, it has been stated that air quality is effected as smoke from the cremation ground is carried along by the strong sea breeze and gets trapped in the buildings in the vicinity,” the bench of chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice B S Reddy and executive members Dr D K Agrawal and Dr R C Trivedi pointed out.
Some of the hotels along the beach have also attracted the NGT’s ire. After Cyclone Phailin struck, the first floors of some of these buildings were inundated. The tribunal has asked the committee to make a list of buildings within 500 metres of the high tide line. Construction is not permitted there under Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) regulations. The matter will be heard again on December 5.
WRITER: Jayanta Gupta