Bill suggests armed force for protection of Ganga, punitive measures for polluters

• The draft Bill for the protection of the Ganga has suggested provisions like having an armed force with the power to arrest those who pollute the river, and imprisonment and fine for offences varying from commercial fishing to the construction of illegal structures in active floodplains.

• The draft bill, which has been circulated to different ministries for construction, envisages constitution of National Ganga Council and a National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority to enforce the law.

• The Bill also lays down provisions of imprisonment of 2-5 years for offences like commercial fishing, polluting the river and construction of illegal structures in active floodplains.

• The official added the Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) personnel will have the power to arrest those who pollute the river covering offences like obstructing the flow of the river to commercial fishing.

• According to the draft bill, the GPC personnel will be provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and will be deployed by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.

• The draft says the existing environmental laws are not adequate to restore and protect the 2,500 km long river.

• The Bill has listed out a list of offences marked as cognizable. These include construction activities causing obstruction in the river, withdrawal of groundwater for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries; commercial fishing or aquaculture in the river and its tributaries; discharge untreated or treated sewage into the river.

• In 2016, a panel headed by retired judge of the Allahabad High Court, Justice Girdhar Malviya, had submitted a draft Bill named ‘The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017’.

• Subsequently, a four-member panel was set up by the government to examine that and the ministry has circulated a Cabinet note which includes a revised version of that draft Bill.

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