Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (August 31-September 4, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 05 September 2020

No meaningful progress in waste management in Ghaziabad: NGT

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) expressed its disapproval at the allegedly complacent attitude of authorities in dealing with waste management in Uttar Pradesh’s Indirapuram, Vasundhara and Vaishali areas.

The issue for consideration was non-compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. Garbage from the areas was dumped at a garbage dump in Ghaziabad’s Shakti Khand area, adversely affecting air quality there. It was alleged there was a garbage fire at Shakti Khand October 20, 2017. Waste was not segregated and non-degradable waste was not being recycled.

The matter was considered on several occasions in light of reports submitted to the NGT by concerned statutory authorities. It was found there was no scientific management of garbage, resulting in damage to the environment and public health.

A report was filed August 28 by the Ghaziabad’s district magistrate that did not show any meaningful progress. Another report was filed by the Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam August 27 that merely referred to some paperwork, the NGT said in its September 2, 2020 order.

The tribunal ordered for meaningful steps to be taken by statutory authorities expeditiously and a compliance report filed as well. It requested an oversight Committee — headed by former Allahabad High Court judge SVS Rathore — to look into the matter and give its independent report. The case was listed again for January 19, 2021.

Wetland conservation

The NGT directed the National Wetlands Committee to compile data on status of compliance of environmental norms in all significant wetlands of India to ensure remedial action.

The state pollution control boards / pollution control committees and state / Union territory (UT) wetland authorities must give the status of wetland management in their respective states to the secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change within three months.

On the basis of information gathered, a joint committee of the secretary and chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will give a consolidated report to the court before January 21, 2021.

This August 27 order was in response to the application on the unscientific dumping of waste and encroachment of the Hokersar wetland, Wular lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara wetland in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A joint report filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Board, Department of Wildlife Protection and the deputy commissioners of Bandipora, Budgam and Srinagar August 18 mentioned the progress achieved with respect to conservation measures taken in the Hokersar Wetland Conservation Reserve, Wular lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara Wetland Conservation Reserve.

The applicant — Raja Muzaffar Bhat — also filed a response to the report, giving certain suggestions. The NGT directed further action be taken by the joint committee headed by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. Suggestions given by the applicant were to be considered and acted upon as well, to the extent found viable.

Treatment of patients with COVID-19

The Supreme Court August 31 directed a meeting of health ministers / secretaries of all states and Union territories (UT) to be convened to create a health plan focusing on the poor and vulnerable sections of the society.

The top court heard the petition for regulating the cost of treatment of patients infected with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID­-19) at private / corporate hospitals across the country. All states and UTs — within two weeks of the first meeting — must be advised to come up with a master plan focusing on the marginalised sections of society, according to the order.

The plan must be both legislative and executive — taking cue from the already existing public health acts of various states and the National Health Bill, 2009, the order said. A second meeting of the health ministers / secretaries of all states and UTs may be convened for the purpose of collating the information received from the states and UTs regarding the steps taken.

After receipt of the information, the Union government may file a comprehensive report with a compilation of the information received. The top court bench of Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said the states that already have public health acts should be advised to fine­tune their existing enactments on the model of the National Health Bill, 2009.

Yamuna floodplains

A complaint was filed September 1 at the NGT by one Akash Vashistha over the construction of a metalled road near the river bed of the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh’s Vrindavan along with other permanent illegal construction.

The road was used to facilitate illegal reclamation of floodplains and led to dumping of debris on the Cheer, Govind and Bhramar ghats (pier). This caused irreparable damage to the ghats and obstructed the natural flow of the river, according to the report.

The applicant mentioned a report based on a site inspection that took place August 14, 2019. The report stated the floodplain was separated from the bathing ghats by a road that was laid on the floodplain. The floodplain and the water course of one channel were completely encroached and massive buildings were constructed.

Vashistha requested the illegal concrete road constructed on the Yamuna floodplains of Vrindavan-Mathura between Shringarvat and Keshi Ghat be removed, along with an allegedly illegal cow shed. Further, all temporary and permanent construction on the Yamuna floodplains must be removed.

Kali river pollution

The Meerut Nagar Nigam filed a report before the NGT on the remedial action taken against the unscientific dumping of solid waste in Ganwri village on the bank of the Kali river. The report said legacy waste lying on the site was fresh in nature. The composting of mixed waste was done while using bacterial inoculums.

The green part of the legacy waste was converted into compost, due to which foul smell from the site stopped. Legacy waste — lying 120 metres from the river bank — was collected with the help of excavators and other machines. It was cleaned and 3,500 trees were planted.

For cleaning legacy waste, an air plastic segregator machine was installed. The capacity of the machine was 15 tonnes per hour. The machine was working continuously since December 2019.

It segregated and deposited compost on one side, the inert part on another and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) on the third side. The Nagar Nigam used the zero sanitary landfill technique. The entire compost that was produced, was being used by the Nagar Nigam itself.

Inert waste was being used by the municipal corporation in construction works after segregating iron, glass, brick and stone. RDF was being used for generating electricity. 

Groundwater contamination

The NGT directed the Ashapura Group of Companies to complete remediation work for contamination of groundwater and soil at Ler village in Gujarat’s Kutch district, within three months. The contamination occurred because of gypsum storage.

The work will be overseen by a joint committee of the CPCB and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). The committee would undertake periodical checks and monitor remedial measures.

The GPCB, in its July 28 report informed the NGT about the status of compliance based on inspection conducted on July 21. Out of 39 locations, waste gypsum was lifted from 26 locations. The remaining 13 locations were still occupied with waste gypsum.

Of these 13 locations, the company began plantation on two locations, according to the recommendation of Gujarat Industrial and Technical Consultancy Organisation Ltd. The company disposed 101,742 tonnes of gypsum waste to cement industries for co-processing and 42,271 tonnes for back filling to abandoned mines between January 1, 2019 and July 21.

The report also mentioned the status of groundwater contamination and restoration. The company used fresh lime to neutralise ammoniacal nitrogen that contaminated groundwater.

The district-level compensation committee — constituted in accordance with the order of the Gujarat High Court — assessed a Rs 31.65 lakh compensation. The matter was forwarded to the principal district judge, Kutch, at Bhuj July 15 for further action. GPCB, however, recovered Rs 97,50,000 as environmental damage compensation June 18, 2019 and the Ashapura Group of Companies gave a bank guarantee of Rs 15 lakh May 2, 2019.

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