ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Drinking Water as a Fundamental Right

The recent landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, placing drinking water as a fundamental right should serve as a stern warning to the politician-bureaucrat nexus who have in recent years turned a blind eye to the growing pollution of Indian rivers. That the court too has sided with the people, and should help in initiating a debate on a crucial issue that has serious implications for the continued health and well-being of most citizens.

All right-thinking people should welcome the recent judgment delivered in the first week of December 2000 by the Supreme Court that access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right as enunciated in the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The apex court’s ruling was given while setting aside the permission given by the government of Andhra Pradesh to Surana Oils and Derivatives in 1997 to set up an industry within the catchment area of Himayat and Osman Sagars which are the two major sources of drinking water to the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The Supreme Court found fault with the state government for giving instructions to the State Pollution Control Board to formulate new norms to this industry. It is also unfortunate that the industry won the case in AP High Court despite all the scientific evidence against it.

This industry releases highly toxic effluents that would have flowed into these water bodies and poisoned them causing irreparable damage to health of citizens of the twin cities. The nature of topography is highly permeable in that area. The Industries Department of AP permitted that industry violating an existing government order that no polluting industry should be set up within 10 km radius of the water bodies. Even without obtaining the necessary No Objection Certificate from the State Pollution Control Board, this industry has gone ahead with the construction in the vicinity of the water bodies. This is another instance of how the political leaders occupying power talk big about environment these days in the state while actually contributing to the destruction of water bodies. It may be recalled that the unprecedented flooding of Hyderabad city in August 2000 due to 24 cm of rainfall in 24 hours was mainly because of encroachment and disappearance of hundreds of water bodies and water courses.

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