Meghalaya High Court Orders the Government to Keep Waterbodies Clean

SHILLONG: April 9 2022 (PTI Source)

The High Court of Meghalaya has mandated that if the landfill at Marten, in Garo Hills, reaches saturation point, appropriate actions be taken to close it.

The last order of February 23, 2022, broadened the scope of the present case to include all water bodies in the state and the Umiam Lake, following a PIL relating to the cleanliness of the river.

The court added, “The Amicus Curiae and the State reports that some measures have been taken, even if remotely, and it appears that the state may have woken up to address the problem.”

The court said that long-term measures and immediate ones must be implemented given the growing number of visitors. The state and local bodies must work together to ensure that duties and obligations are assigned appropriately.

"The state has to lead the charge. Levels or distances beyond which tourists should not be permitted must be established, a safe distance between the shoreline of water bodies and motor vehicle traffic, including parking, must be maintained, and certain materials like plastics and tetra packs should be restricted."

The court also said, “If it appeals to the state, plastics and tetra pack-free zones around water bodies should be defined, maintained, and tourists and local people should be compelled to obey them.”

According to the court, several rivers, especially those that run through Shillong or more prominent cities like Nongstoin, need to be restocked. Based on scientific advice, the natural flow pattern should be restored.

“While people along the waterways require access to water, there should be awareness campaigns to educate them on the specifics of allowed usage and what other activities are not permitted. In particular, the strategies should focus on preserving, protecting, and revitalizing aquatic plants and animals that live or flourish in water.

The court believed that long-term and short-term strategies must be developed and implemented genuinely, and it hoped that state-level guidelines would be established first to prevent further damage to water bodies and then to preserve them to restore or rejuvenate them.

The court agreed with the Amicus Curiae's recommendation that boards be erected at important tourist attractions to indicate "dos" and "don'ts," with local personnel responsible for ensuring compliance and helpline numbers provided for any concerns.

“Local participation is ideal since it would result in a personal touch and affection for preserving and conserving the local environment. For such service, the state might provide compensation or reward,” the court ruled.

The court also stated that if the landfill site at Marten has reached the saturation point, appropriate measures should be taken to close it down immediately upon locating an alternative use for it.