Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (August 3-7, 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 08 August 2020

Environment clearance

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) July 31, 2020 directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to take effective steps and discharge its constitutional obligation of advancing precautionary and sustainable development principles and also the public trust doctrine.

The matter for consideration was the steps to be taken for an effective monitoring mechanism for compliance of conditions of Environmental Clearance, according to the notification dated September 14, 2006, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

“Repeated pleas of merely having proposals, without effective enforcement on the ground can hardly be held to be satisfactory,” the court said.

Mahanoy river

Justice SP Wangdi of the NGT reprimanded the Bihar government July 31 for its “defiant and unacceptable” approach in dealing with illegal constructions on the banks of the Mahanoy river in Munger district.

The Mahanoy River Safety Society filed an application before the court over construction work converting the river into a cesspool because of the discharge of untreated water.

A report was asked for from the Bihar Pollution Control Board and Munger’s district magistrate after having the area in question inspected and verifying facts.

The NGT, in its February 18, 2019 order, said the primary issue to be determined was whether the building of the block development office in Tetiya Bambar was constructed within the impermissible limits of the river. It also asked if there were any rules framed by the state prescribing criteria for construction on river banks.

The state government failed to place any such rules before the court as of August 26, 2019. The NGT, however, pointed out that the Bihar Building By-Laws, 2014, did exist and there were certain criteria laid down under Rule 22 (2) thereof. 

Constructions fell within the prohibited area of 100 metres — according to the rule — the court noted.

Time was again sought by the state government and the case was listed a number of times and was adjourned. The NGT July 31 granted a final opportunity to the state to file a report before September 15, 2020.

STPs at Chikhali

A report was filed by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in Maharashtra before the NGT explaining the importance of constructing three sewage treatment plants (STPs) at Chikhali (12 million litres per day), Bopkhel (five MLD) and Pimple Nilakh (15 MLD) at the earliest.

The report mentioned the three proposed STP locations within the PCMC-Pune area and requested permission for commencement of their construction within the PCMC area.

Three rivers flow through / along the boundary of PCMC — Mula, Indrayani and Pawana. Nullahs in Chikhali and other adjoining areas were directly mixed into the Indrayani river. Some parts of untreated water flowed down to Alandi, along the banks of the Indrayani river.

The report said that it was essential to construct the STP at Chikhali, which would treat the untreated water and prevent it from getting mixed into the Indrayani river. The PCMC report said the construction of the STP at Chikhali was “legal and proper” and there were no violations of any rules.

The construction of the STP would not hamper or obstruct the natural flow of the river as planning was done considering the high flood-level of the river. The construction of the STP would also not change the cross section of the river.

The report was uploaded to the NGT site August 4.

Gorbi mine

Acidic water accumulated in the mine pits of the Gorbi project in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district should be taken care of, said an August 5, 2020 NGT order.

The order was in response to the application filed before the court by Subhash Kushwaha, president of the Machhali Palan Sahkari Samiti, stating unscientific disposal of fly ash in the Gorbi coal mine affected fishing activity.

The report filed by the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) informed the tribunal that the Gorbi project was an abandoned coal mine of Northern Coalfields Ltd, Singrauli.

The mine was declared inoperative July 1997. It is currently filled with acidic water, due to natural and geogenic reasons, and has a Potential of Hydrogen ranging between 2.1 and 2.9.

The acidic water accumulated in the mine pit was tested by MPPCB in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The water was highly acidic and not fit for any fish propagation. The mine water quality was not fit to be used for fish propagation, according to the designated water quality criteria devised by Central Pollution Control Board.

It was also submitted that the mine was abandoned several years ago, but no aquatic life in it had been noticed and no locals were seen fishing.

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