Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to reply within two weeks over the concerns raised in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on untreated sewage being let into the sea and Mithi River.

A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N.M. Jamdar, asked state and civic authorities to file an affidavit within two weeks on the complaints raised in a PIL that has sought direction from the court in order to frame guidelines to stop the pollution of coastal waters of the city,

The PIL has been filed by a non-government organisation (NGO), Citizen Circle for Social Welfare and Education, through advocate Syed Shehzad Abbas Naqvi. The PIL states that the petitioners are aggrieved by the dismal condition of Mumbai’s coastal waters, which is extremely polluted and is dangerous to the entire ecosystem and public at large.

The petitioners say they have personally surveyed the coastal areas of Mumbai city and were “shocked, surprised and dismayed to notice that there are several points along the coastline of Marine Drive where they found sewage discharged through big sewage pipes directly into the Arabian Sea at the coastline itself whereas it is the duty of BMC to discharge sewage at a distance of about 3.7km from [the] coastline, which is practised worldwide.”

They have relied on newspaper reports that have quoted the causes and effect/impact of pollution from reliable studies. One such report formulated by an institute known as Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, published in Mirror Now on May 15, states, “…Mumbai’s coastline is now considered among the most polluted in the world. And one of the reasons for this is that sewage receives a preliminary treatment before it is pumped into the sea..”

Copies of photos clicked on July 30 at Marine Drive have been annexed to show how untreated sewage/waste is piled up in huge quantities on the coastline.

The surveys have revealed that the litter on the four beaches in Mumbai, namely Juhu, Versova, Dadar and Aksa, had 68.83 items of waste/debris consisting of micro-plastic ranging in size from 1mm to 5mm.

Moreover, according to a study conducted by the “National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEER), Nagpur, the level of faecal coliform (FC) is between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the permissible limit set by law and the said study is focused on the impact of sewage discharges on the water quality of the west coast.”

While pointing out how sewage from slums and industrial waste was being discharged into the Mithi River that flows through Mumbai, the respondents argued that they were abiding by the orders of the Supreme Court on cleanliness of the river. However, they were told this was another issue and they would have to reply on the matter of untreated sewage being discharged into the river.

The PIL pointed that the BMC had not laid out the drainage system in the slum areas which as per reports accounts to 25 per cent of untreated sewage into the sea. The petitioner also appealed to the court to direct the respondents to upgrade and increase the number of sewage treatment plants.