By Amrita Dasgupta, South Calcutta Law College.

In today’s world of practicality, pollution free water is a global crisis. As the world started developing with escalation of industries, agriculture, and trade and commerce, the water throughout the world turned poisonous with the dumping of garbage, industrial chemicals, oil pollutions, etc. Not only the living organisms in water are affected by this pollution, but it is also detrimental to the health of human lives.

The Centre for Science and Environment in its fifth report, 1999, has observed: “India is facing a total collapse of urban environment. While industrial cities like Ludhiana and Tiruppur are drawing in toxic wastes and industrial pollution, non-industrial towns like Aligarh and Bhagalpur are swamped with domestic waste. As water-supply agencies have failed in every single town to supply clean and adequate water, people are turning more to the use of ground water, depleting and polluting its reserve. River and streams that pass through towns are turning toxic.”[1]

While water is the elixir of life, people are dying out of it.  The contamination in water is increasing with each passing day. Even when there are Acts for the control of water pollution like Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 which was amended in 1988; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977 which was amended in 1992; Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess (Amendment) Act, 2003; there is no improvement to this.

According to the estimates of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, there has been an increase of 569 cases of deaths due to diseases caused because of drinking contaminated water in 2012. According to the figures furnished by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, in 2012, a total of 3,883 people died due to diseases caused because of drinking of contaminated water as compared to 3,314 in 2011.Most of the deaths occurred due to diarrhoea and typhoid. In 2011, as many as 1, 02, 31,049 cases of acute diarrhoea were reported of which 1,269 people succumbed to the disease. In 2012, of the 1, 17, 01,755 diarrhoea patients, 1,647 died. In 2011, 346 people died due to typhoid, the figure rose to 428 in 2012.[2] The graph of death rate is rising with each passing year. About 40% deaths is caused to consumption of contaminated water.

If we talk about the causes to this water pollution, then the major issues that come up is the abnormality in growth of population, poverty, the deforestation, the unplanned industrial drainage system, the religious superstitions, the garbage depositions, the sewages, heavy metals from motor vehicles and fertilizers.

As this is not any one country’s or city’s individual problem, thus a combined effort to combat the ongoing hazardous problem should be made. Economic development and human disregard have caused a decline in the quality of water and marine life all over the world. There is no global policy associated with the control of water pollution. The GATT has addressed many issues concerning trade. These include the lowering of trade and non-trade barriers and establishing trade rules for the entire trading community. It is now just beginning to address issues of the environment as well. Some kind of global forum, such as the GATT, must be used to debate the question of water pollution.[3]

This pollution does not only infringe the aim of a pollution-free environment but it also infringes Article 21 of the Indian Constitution i.e. right to life. A person can never enjoy a proper life if he is living in a polluted environment. The compass of the expression “right to life” is no more restricted to food, clothing and shelter. It includes a pollution-free environment too. The term “environment” and the expression “right to life” are intertwined.

Furthermore, few provisions relating to punishment in violating water pollution laws are given in Section 277, 269, 425 and 511 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

In a famous case of Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum V. Union of India, a pollution fine of Rs. 10,000 on each of all the tannaries was imposed, which was to be deposited in the ‘Environment Protection Fund’. This fund was to be utilized to compensate the affected persons and also for restoring the damaged environment. A similar fine was also imposed by the Supreme Court in Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action V. Union of India.

Few of the landmark cases concerning water pollution includes: Ganges pollution case, Delhi sewage treatment plant case, Ground Water pollution case in Rajasthan, Ground water depletion case and the Ratlam Case.

To live a healthy and decent life, a person should have a proper environment. Thus more awareness should be disseminated to every corner of the world through workshops, educational institutions, and campaigns. More austere laws should be implemented. The industries should treat the sewage pollutants to make it less toxic. Water hyacinth popularly known as Kaloli and Jalkumbhi, can purify water polluted by biological and chemical wastes. It can also filter out heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, lead and nickel as well as other toxic substances found in industrial waste waters.[4] Also water used for drinking purpose should be purified before consumption either by boiling or by the water purification machines and education on hygiene, sanitation and water quality should be spread. Education is the first step towards a salubrious environment.

[1]  Environmental Law, Prof. Satish C. Shastri (Fourth Edition)