Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (September 16-20)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal through the week;
Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (September 16-20)

Mining in Ambaji

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on September 17, 2019 asked for information on mining leases operating in Ambaji, in Banas Kantha district of Gujarat, that are dumping their overburden in the area.

Overburden of many of the leases were being dumped in natural drain obstructing the flow of water and causing siltation of water courses, the NGT said.

The tribunal had, in its July 25, 2019 order, asked a committee that inspected three mining sites in Ambaji, to file another report mentioning if a mining closure plan was submitted and ascertain the environmental compensation for the damages caused to the area owing to illegal mining.

The committee comprises State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Gujarat and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board. They had previously reported that no mining activity was found in these sites due to self-closure by the mining companies as they lacked environmental clearance.

The tribunal, in the present order, suggested that a senior scientist from Central Pollution Control Board should also be included in the committee to make it more effective.

Damodar river encroachment

The NGT on September 17 directed the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board  (JSPCB) to submit an action taken report on the issue of encroachment and pollution of the Damodar river by Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) in the state’s Bokaro district.

The tribunal was responding to an application filed by the residents of Pichhari Panchayat in the district. The panchayat also alleged that illegal mining was taking place and several trees had been cut, which had resulted in diversion of the river.

A report submitted by the district magistrate of Bokaro and the JSPCB stated that the riverbed had been encroached. The mines were situated near the CCL pump house, which was by the side of the river at Pichri.

The report also stated that a show cause notice had been issued to CCL, proposing the cancellation of consent to it to operate and the recovery of environmental compensation.

Noise at IGI 

The NGT on September 18 ordered the Delhi International Airport Ltd to “not only measure and maintain the prescribed noise levels but also display the same in public domain,” in response to an execution application filed by non-profit Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotion of National Awareness for compliance of the order NGT passed on November 24, 2017. 

One of the directions involved issuing of an advisory by AAI “to all the airlines whose aircrafts land at the runway of the IGI and domestic Airport, New Delhi to ensure ‘judgment based’ use of reverse thrust keeping in view weather, length of run way, wind, and other attendant circumstances to reduce the noise level particularly at the time of landing of aircrafts.”

A NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) was issued by AAI, which has been incorporated in the Aeronautical Information Publication. Information regarding use of reverse thrust by pilots is applicable to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, according to the action-taken report.

Steps regarding noise pollution were also taken in terms of a Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notification, dated July 6, 2018, laying down certain requirements that have to be complied by June 17, 2020.

Private institutions come under RTI Act: SC

Educational institutions and non-profits that get “substantial funds” from the government fall under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005, said the Supreme Court on September 17.

Under the Act, a public authority is required to maintain records and every citizen has the right to get information from the public authority, the SC added.

The apex court was hearing an application filed by colleges and associations running these institutions. They said the objective of the Act was to cover only government and its instrumentalities which are accountable to the government.

“We have no hesitation in holding that a non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government would be a public authority amenable to the provisions of the Act,” read the SC judgment. The same holds true for private institutions like colleges and schools, added the court.

Water bodies damaged in Maharashtra

The SC on September 16 ordered that a notice be issued to those damaging to water bodies and dams constructed by Maharashtra government using explosive materials.

The application stated that materials like gelatine were used without obtaining permission and requested that cases be lodged against offenders under Section 420 of Indian Penal Code.

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