The Bombay High Court has asked Maharashtra government to declare within a week what steps it would take to make the Godavari river in Nashik, where Kumbh Mela starts next month, pollution-free and its water fit for drinking.
The mega religious congregation on the banks of Godavari at Trimbakeshwar, a pilgrim town near Nashik, about 200km from Mumbai, will start from July 14.
The direction was given recently by a bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Reveti Mohite-Dhere on a public interest litigation filed by activist Rajesh Pandit.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a central government body, has submitted a report which said the holy river was polluted and its water not fit from human consumption.
The PIL prayed that until the pollution is cleared and Godavari water becomes fit for drinking, the authorities be restrained from holding the Kumbh festival in Nashik.
The HC had earlier warned it would ban bathing in the river during the Mela unless the authorities, including Nashik Municipal Corporation, Pollution Control Board, state government and the Centre took steps to clean the water.
The petitioner had asked the HC to prohibit bathing during Kumbh Mela on the ghats downstream from the sanitation treatment plants (STPs) at Tapovan and Dasak. The HC has directed NMC, MPCB, state and central governments to file a reply.
The court had appointed Nagpur-based NEERI to study the pollution levels in the river. It had also asked the Nashik civic body to put up boards along the Godavari banks, stating that the river water was unfit for consumption.