Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (August 24-28, 2020)

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

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 29 August 2020

Sambhar lake pollution

The problem of management of waste and sewage, removal of encroachment and disposal of sodium sulphate waste / sludge generated from salt refining units remained to be fully tackled, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) noted in its August 27, 2020 order on Sambhar lake pollution.

The NGT directed the chief secretary of Rajasthan to monitor further remedial steps in the matter at least once a month and furnish a report to the tribunal before January 22, 2021 (the next date of hearing of the case).

The NGT order was in cognisance to a media report from November 20, 2019 on the deterioration of ecology at and around Sambhar lake in Jaipur district. The deterioration was manifested by the incident of death of 18,000 migratory birds, as reported in the newspapers.

It was mentioned that the incident was the result of violation of environmental norms in maintaining the ecosystem of the wetland.

African catfish farming

There was no farming of African catfish in the district of Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu and all effective action would be taken to destroy new African Catfish farms, if any, found by the district administration in future, said a report by the district collector to the NGT.

An application was filed in the NGT alleging illegal farming of African catfish also known as ‘African magur’, was taking place in Krishnagiri district. This activity was banned under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The said farming involved feeding of chicken and egg wastes to African catfish, causing foul smell and water pollution.

In pursuance to a October 22, 2019 NGT order, the district administration formed nine inspection teams December 5, 2019, consisting of officials of the fisheries, police, rural development and revenue departments to identify the prohibited African catfish farms and destroy such stocks immediately.

The teams carried out inspection of all fish ponds in the entire district from December 7-23, 2019. They identified 259 prohibited African catfish farms and destroyed all such stocks in the district, as reported by the assistant director of fisheries, Krishnagiri district December 24, 2019.

The report was uploaded to the NGT site August 25, 2020.

Bhopal Chota Talab 

A bench of Justice Sheo Kumar Singh of the NGT August 25 directed a joint committee consisting of the collector, Bhopal, the Municipal Corporation, Bhopal and the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board to submit a factual and action-taken report on pollution of Chota Talab in Bhopal.

It was alleged the lake water was polluted as a result of mud balls filled with hazardous chemicals being thrown in to kill fish and sell them.

Uniform compensation 

The NGT directed a unit engaged in manufacturing of printing press machines and their spare parts, to pay 25 per cent of the Rs 20 lakh required to be paid as environmental compensation (EC), as imposed by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

The unit will also have to give an undertaking not to start prohibited activity in non-conforming areas and to not repeat any polluting activity. The scale of compensation would then be revisited by a joint committee comprising the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the DPCC within three months.

The August 25 NGT order was in pursuance to an application filed by the unit before the NGT. It was against the order passed by the DPCC July 17, imposing an EC of Rs 20 lakh on the basis of the polluter-pays principle.

The unit was engaged in making printing press machines and their spare parts, an activity that falls under the orange category in a non-conforming area. The DPCC ordered Rs 20 lakh will have to be given as EC by every unit operating in the orange category in non-conforming areas.

This was disputed by the unit that said a uniform compensation for every orange category unit operating in non-conforming areas would result in discrimination against smaller units, without reference to their contribution to pollution.

Hazardous chemicals

The NGT August 24, 2020, directed off-site and on-site emergency plans must be finalised in accordance with Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.

This must be jointly coordinated by the CPCB and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), with all concerned authorities and entities for storage and handling of the substances. Such action has to be concluded at the earliest, but positively within one month, the order said.

The NGT order was in response to the application filed in the court on the 700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a Chennai warehouse from 2015 onwards.

A report filed by the TNPCB said a total of 37 containers with 697 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was sent to Salvo Explosives and Chemicals Pvt Ltd, Ankireddypali village, Keesara road, Keesara mandal, Medchal Malkajgiri, Telangana, a detonator manufacturing unit with a license for ammonium nitrate.

Hotels require CTO: NGT

The NGT in its August 24 ruling on in the matter of Pramod Kumar Agarwal vs Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board said hotels cannot avoid obligation under the Water Act to prevent discharge of any untreated pollutants.

Section 26 of the act applied to an establishment set up prior to 1974. The regulatory frameworks of the Water and Air acts were applicable to appellants for running hotels where polluted water and air generation potential were not ruled out.

Two applications were filed before the NGT challenging the orders of the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board.

The state pollution control board asked hotels that arrangements must be made for sewage treatment. Also, consent to operate must be taken in terms of the Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981.

The main contention of the appellant hotels was they operated since 1980. Section 26 of the Water Act did not require them to apply for consent to operate, unless a date was notified by the state government.

The hotels did not have any plant or machinery or generator set or boiler. The Air Act also, thus, did not apply to them, the hotels said.

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