The National Green Tribunal has slapped a penalty of Rs 10 crore on a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Amroha district of Uttar Pradesh for violation of environmental norms. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said it was surprising to note that a big global company like Teva API Ltd operating hazardous activity of manufacturing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) was in operation without adequate safeguards and is unconcerned about violation of environmental norms. The tribunal said violation in the matter of illegal extraction of groundwater was clearly established along with the pollution of the drain. There was also violation of safety norms and the unit had to be held liable to pay compensation for the violations to cover the cost of restoration of the environment and also to take remedial action to prevent such occurrences in future, the bench said.
“Having regard to the nature of violations in the present case and the financial capacity of the unit in question, we determine the compensation amount at Rs 10 crore which amount may be deposited with the District Magistrate within one month. The District Magistrate may keep the amount in a separate account to be spent for restoration of the environment by preparing an action plan for augmentation of the groundwater, afforestation, landscaping, restoration of the drain and offsite emergency plans,” the bench said. The action plan for utilising the amount must be prepared within one month in consultation with the Oversight Committee constituted by this Tribunal under the Chairmanship of Justice SVS Rathore, former Judge of the Allahabad High Court at Lucknow, the tribunal said. The Oversight Committee must also oversee utilisation of the amount for restoration of the environment in an appropriate manner. “The utilisation may be ensured within six months. The joint Committee of CPCB, State PCB, and District Magistrate may also ensure that requisite measures are adopted by the plant to avoid violation of safety norms in future,” the bench said. With regard to death of one Mohit Ranjan on account of gas leakage on December 6, 2020, the NGT directed Shalabh Mathur, DIG, Moradabad to give a factual report to the Oversight Committee with a copy to the District Magistrate and the project proponent. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by UP resident Jitendra Singh alleging that incidents of gas leak took place on June 7 and 10, 2020, from Teva API Pvt Ltd, Chandpur Road, Gajraula, District Amroha, Uttar Pradesh.
NGT directs all states, UTs to complete District Environment Plans by Oct 31
Observing that there was a dire need for compiling information on vital environmental issues and planning to address the gaps in compliances, the National Green Tribunal recently directed the chief secretaries of all the States and Union Territories (UTs) to ensure completion of District Environment Plans (DEPs) by October 31. The green panel said it was the Constitutional obligation of the States/UTs to ensure compliance of the environmental mandate as clean environment is part of right to life. The tribunal said it was unhappy to note that all the States/UTs had not taken the matter as seriously as the subject requires. “We hope that the Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs will provide due attention to the subject in the larger public interest and in the interest of health, safety of the citizens and rule of law to effectuate basis fundamental rights of the citizens,” the NGT said. As repeatedly observed by this Tribunal, degradation of air, water and soil cause large number of deaths and diseases, apart from loss of livelihood. There seems to be huge gap in responsibility entrusted to the authorities and action on the ground, as shown by the reports. Damage to the environment is a criminal offence under various statutes. The green panel said “the effect of deaths and diseases due to pollution is no less than homicides or hurts to human beings.” The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Shree Nath Sharma which was originally filed before the Rajasthan High Court for direction to check pollution of Sujanganga River at Bharatpur. The High Court directed taking of remedial measures - removing encroachment, preventing dumping of waste and fixing accountability of the concerned officers for failing to protect the environment. On September 26, 2013, the High Court directed that the matter be transferred to this Tribunal which order was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Over 70% snow leopard habitat remains unexplored, says WWF
Most of the vast range - possibly over 1.7 million sqkm of rugged mountain terrain - has never been researched from a snow leopard context, says a report titled “Over 100 Years of Snow Leopard Research - A spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range” which examines the current state of knowledge across their habitat. The report is based on an analysis of peer reviewed published papers on the species and its habitat. It points at some glaring gaps in our knowledge of this elusive and threatened big cat species and highlights that lack of basic data could be hampering its conservation. All the research efforts, spanning over a century, have only managed to cover 23 per cent of snow leopard habitat and the rest remains unexplored, according to a WWF report. Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia’s high mountains and this remaining population faces continued and emerging threats. Increased habitat loss and degradation, poaching and conflict with communities have contributed to a decline in their numbers and left the species hanging by a thread in many places, the WWF report mentions. The report also highlights that although conservationists are addressing several of the threats, a robust analysis of how effective the interventions are in achieving their objectives remains deficient. “Snow leopards are not just the emblems of Asia's high mountains but are also critical to sustaining the landscapes they live in, which support water sources for over 2 billion people,” said Margaret Kinnaird, Lead Wildlife Practice, WWF International. “The report will be a guide for the conservation community to diversify and prioritize areas of conservation research to preserve sufficient and suitable habitat for snow leopards and to ensure water security for the vast human populations downstream.” The WWF report points out that despite a major research focus on snow leopard population assessments, less than 3 per cent of the big cat’s range has robust data on abundance. A large majority of snow leopard habitat, spanning over 12 countries, remains under-researched, and critical knowledge gaps must be plugged for informed conservation, according to a WWF report. The snow leopard lives in rugged terrain - some of the harshest landscapes on the planet - so research poses significant logistical challenges. “Serious efforts to learn more about the species began in the 1970s but the snow leopard’s remote and vast range and elusive nature, means that most of the habitat is still unexplored and we don't have a full picture of the status of this magnificent wild cat,” said Rishi Kumar Sharma, WWF Global Snow Leopard Lead, also the lead author of the report. According to the WWF, The snow leopard's powerful build allows it to scale great steep slopes with ease. Its hind legs give it the ability to leap six times the length of its body. A long tail provides balance and agility and also wraps around the resting snow leopard as protection from the cold. The mountains ranges rich with their prey such as blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas and hares found in 12 countries - including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia - are their habitat