Orders from NGT for a greener 2020
The writer is an Advocate at Supreme Court of India and environment enthusiast
Excess wastage of water by use of Reverse Osmosis (RO) process: NGT dealt with the issue of conservation of potable water by preventing its wastage on account of unnecessary use of Reverse Osmosis9RO) systems. It was noted that the use of RO systems results in TDS level below the desirable threshold causing deficiency of calcium and other minerals. The Expert Committee constituted by the Tribunal recommended that RO technology was not required for places having piped water supplies primarily supplied by Municipal corporations from surface water sources like river, lakes and ponds. In view of the above, the Tribunal directed Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to issue an appropriate notification prohibiting the use of RO where TDS level is less than 500 mg/l and wherever RO is permitted, requirements be laid down for recovery of water to be more than 60%.
Pollution caused by Dairies: The Tribunal dealt in detail with the issue of non-compliance of environmental norms by dairies. It was observed that livestock is a major source of methane emissions causing surface temperatures to surge up. The CPCB was directed to undertaker study and formulate appropriate guidelines for managing and monitoring of environmental norms by dairies throughout the India and furnish its report to the Tribunal.
Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016: The Tribunal noted that solid waste management is of Paramount importance for protection of environment. In order to achieve the desired result, the Tribunal directed constitution of Central Monitoring Committee comprising representative from NITI Aayog, Ministry of Water Resources, Urban Development Department, MoEF&CC, NMCG and CPCB representing the Central Government and Chief secretaries representing the States/UTs so that a holistic view can be taken on the issue of Municipal Solid Waste management in the nation. The Tribunal for each State directed its officials to notify and develop three cities, towns and villages in each State as model cities, towns and villages respectively which shall be fully compliant with on environmental norms within one year. The Tribunal further directed officials to estimate and recover compensation from polluters of environment.
Menace of Sand Mining: The Tribunal took notice of the remedial action required against illegal sand mining in violation of the directions of the Supreme Court in Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana &Ors. The Supreme Court had observed that absence of regulation of sand mining was a threat to biodiversity, could destroy riverine vegetation, cause erosion, pollute water sources badly affecting riparian ecology and damaging ecosystem of rivers, safety of bridges, weakening of river beds, destruction of natural habitats of organisms living on the river beds, affect fish breeding and migration and spell disaster for the conservation of bird species and increase saline water in the rivers. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued Sustainable Sand-Mining Management Guidelines 2016, however, it was noticed that the same were not complied with. The Tribunal accordingly considered the issue of revision of Guidelines in the light of directions of the Tribunal and preparation of an effective monitoring mechanism for preventive and remedial measures to be taken in the states of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Telangana where sand mining is more prevalent as compared to the other states.
Conservation of Biological Diversity: The NGT noted that Biodiversity Management Committees had not been constituted as per Section 41 of the Biodiversity Act and People’s Biodiversity Registers had not been maintained as required under Rule 22 (6). PBRs help the State and local community to become aware of the valuable resources being harvested in the area which can be utilised for overall social and economic development of the State. Furthermore PBRs also help in conservation of traditional practices and knowledge of local community. In view of serious non compliance for the past 16 years, the Tribunal directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to evolve mechanism for monthly meeting to be attended by the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Biodiversity Boards, Secretary of Panchayats Environment and Forest starting from September 2019. States were ordered to be held accountable for default and were be required to deposit a sum of Rupees 10 lakh per month each from 01.01.2020.
Rejuvenation of River Ganga: The Tribunal observed that prevention of discharge of untreated industrial waste and sewage in River Ganga and its tributaries, installation of STPs and CETPs, installation of continuous emission monitoring system, uses of treated wastewater and sludge manure and setting up of bio-digesters and septage management and preventing dumping of waste were the primary issues requiring immediate attention. The Tribunal ordered that the erring industrial units would be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rupees 10 lakh per month to CPCB for discharging untreated sewage in any drain connected to River Ganga. With regard to sectors where the STP and separation network work had not started, the State was held liable to pay environmental compensation of Rupees 10 lakh per month after 31.12.2020.
The problem of E-waste: The question for consideration before the Tribunal was remedial action against scientific disposal of E-waste which was causing contamination of groundwater and soil acidification. The State Pollution Control Boards were directed to furnish implementation status in respect of checking of informal trading, dismantling and recycling of e-waste collection and disposal of e-waste governance framework for monitoring compliance and capacity building at District, State and CPCB level for enforcement.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems and Utilization of Treated Water: The Tribunal noted the need for comprehensive groundwater management and plan for covering Rainwater Harvesting Systems. The need for sealing of illegal borewells was felt. It was however found that parks and gardens were also having tubewells which were required to be stopped to promote the use of treated water for gardening. The Tribunal accordingly directed the Jal Boards to ensure that treated wastewater was mandatory utilised and prepare an action plan in consultation with local bodies to ensure that Rainwater Harvesting System are installed in all government buildings, group housing societies, and new buildings where occupancy certificate is yet to be issued.
Management of Hazardous Waste: The matter was taken up by NGT due to alarming situation created by generation and scientific dumping of hazardous waste resulting in serious and irreversible damage to the environment and public health. The Tribunal observed large-scale non-compliance of Hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016. The Tribunal directed CPCB and all SPCBs, CBIC, DGFT, Port Authorities, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Labour and Employment and Department of Labour to ensure that hazardous waste inventory be updated and verified by way of checks to ensure that the same was credible, reliable and robust in terms of content and scope. The126 sites which were identified as contaminated were directed to be cleared of the hazardous waste within 6 months so that the remediation process may be started. With regard to 195 probable contaminated sites, the Tribunal directed that the assessment may be completed within 6 months and thereafter the waste may be removed within next 6 months from sites.
Illegal Extraction of Groundwater: The Tribunal considered the issue of contamination of groundwater and illegal extraction of ground water in the areas which are declared to be over exploited, critical exploited and semi critically exploited by Central Ground Water Authority. The Tribunal directed that since the over exploited areas have been found to be seriously affected by overdrawal of groundwater, regulation of such level for commercial purposes cannot be dispensed with for any industry even in industrial area as availability of water for drinking is first priority.
Stubble Burning and consequent Air Pollution: Remedial action to prevent crop burning resulting in air pollution particularly in the NCR region has been subject matter of consideration before the NGT for the last more than 6 years. The Tribunal noted with dismay that the steps taken were inadequate and did not provide for ground checking and vigilance and extinguishing of illegal fires. The Tribunal directed the Central Government as well as the States to place on the respective websites the date of fire incidents, responsible officers for the subject for the entire area and action taken for failures on a daily basis to continuously monitor the situation.
On the issue of Noise Pollution: The Tribunal directed CPCB to lay down stringent compensation for tampering with sound limiters.
Air Pollution in Non- Attainment Cities: The Tribunal directed for installation of Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations within one year which would monitor the air quality on all 12 notified parameters under the Air Act. On default it was directed that the State Pollution Control Boards would be liable to pay compensation at Rupees 5 lakh per month starting from 01.01.2021.
Coastal Water Pollution: The Tribunal dealt with the issue of formulating an Action Plan to restore coastal water quality along the Indian coastal areas. It was observed that coastal areas are critically polluted on account of dumping of sewage and waste. Over 80% of marine pollution is from land-based sources- industrial, agricultural and urban. The Tribunal directed CPCB to submit a comprehensive Status Report with regard to coastal pollution by way of classification of coastal areas into priorities I- V. The Tribunal directed all the State Pollution Control Boards of coastal States/UTs to provide relevant information to CPCB within one month, failing which they would be liable to pay Rupees 10 lakh per month till compliance.
Compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules at Railway Stations: The Tribunal considered the issue of non-compliance of Plastics Waste and Solid Waste Management Rules, preventing discharge of effluents, management of water at Railway Stations, compartments and tracks and removal of encroachments causing environment degradation. The Tribunal directed the CPCB to take into account the process of implementation of Action Plans of Railways for all major stations and evaluate the same and file compliance report with regard to compliance of Section 25 of the Water Act and Section 21 of the Air Act of such railway stations before 31.03.2020.
Remedial action for 351 polluted river stretches in India: The Tribunal had earlier passed directions for preparation for Action Plans for restoration and rejuvenation of the polluted river stretches. The Tribunal while reviewing the progress directed that all steps proposed in the Action Plans including completion of setting up of STPs and their commissioning be done till 31.03.2021, in default of which compensation assessed at Rs 10 lakh per month per STP would be payable.
Plastic Waste Management: The Tribunal directed for preparation of an institutional mechanism to ensure that no unregistered plastic manufacturing recycling unit is in operation and no plastic bag of less than 50 microns thickness be manufactured, stocked and sold and used in the cities, special environment squads be set up to oversee that no littering of plastic waste takes place at historical religious and public places and no burning of plastic waste takes place in the open.
Pollution in Lakes: The NGT considered the issue of contamination of Bellandur, Agra and Varthur lakes at Bengaluru on account of discharge of untreated sewage and other effluents from residential/commercial/industrial buildings in violation of statutory provisions of the Water Act, 1974, particularly Section 25. The NGT noticed that the current situation was that sewage continued to be discharged into the lake with no plan of even immediate interim preventive measures. Accordingly, a Monitoring Committee was set up to review the progress as per the order and directions of the Tribunal till 31.03.2020.