Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (July 13-17, 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 18 July 2020

Chromium dumps

Lack of concrete action by the Uttar Pradesh government on the scientific disposal of chromium dumps at Rania, Kanpur Dehat and Rakhi Mandi in Kanpur Nagar district earned it the ire of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The dumps — that have existed since 1976 — resulted in the contamination of ground water, affecting the health and life of the inhabitants and fauna.

A report was filed on behalf of the chief secretary, Uttar Pradesh February 4, 2020 followed by another report June 11. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also filed its report July 14.

The report of the Chief Secretary, Uttar Pradesh mentioned an action plan prepared for restoring the environment and certain steps taken for supply of water to the inhabitants.

The June report discussed a matter of remediation that was at an earlier stage. The report of the CPCB was of a general nature, according to the court.

The chromium dumps containing toxic chemicals, however, had not been shifted to the treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF), something over which Uttar Pradesh continued to fail, the NGT said in its July 16 order.

This was despite repeated directions, showing lack of sensitiveness on the part of the concerned officers, the court said, adding that hazard to public health and the environment continued.

The process of remediation can only start only after shifting the waste to an operational TSDF, the court pointed out.

Considering the seriousness of the consequences for continued delay on one pretext or other, the court directed the chief secretary to ensure prompt action on priority.

It asked the chief secretary to ensure this action in a time bound manner and to personally monitor it.

A committee constituted by the court and headed by Justice SVS Rathore, former judge of the Allahabad High Court, would also oversee the compliance of this direction and give its independent report.

It was made clear that the tribunal will have no other option except to take coercive measures for any further default by the state.

Silica washing units in Shankargarh

A two-judge NGT bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sonam Phintso Wangdi July 16 said mere closure of silica-washing units will not wipe out their liability for violations already committed.

The order was in response to a report filed by the divisional commissioner of Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj on the remedial actions taken against illegal extraction of groundwater for washing silica sand.

This was done without obtaining the necessary no-objection certificate from the Central Ground Water Authority in Shankargarh block, Prayagraj district.

The report informed the tribunal of Rs 7.25 lakh environmental compensation imposed for August 2019 against 61 silica-washing units.

With respect to nine units, however, no process to issuing environmental compensation was imposed as they were already closed.

Sixty recovery certificates from 61 units were issued against the illegal plants, with the certificate for the remaining one unit under process.

The tribunal noted no process was initiated against nine units on the ground that they were already closed and directed the divisional commissioner to ensure further action and recover compensation from all violators.

Railway stations

The NGT directed a joint team comprising of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and concerned state pollution control boards / pollution control committees to evaluate the performance of major railway stations, both in terms of implementation of action plans and compliance to the provisions of the Water Act, Air Act and Environmental Protection Act.

The team also had to check the stations’ compliance regarding Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, Hazardous and other Waste Rules, 2016, Bio-Medical Waste Rules, 2016 as well as Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Teams comprising the CPCB and SPCBs / PCCs, inspected 36 railway stations to evaluate their environmental performance during February-March.

The CPCB received correspondence from railway authorities seeking information regarding categorisation of railway stations into red / orange / green categories for the purpose of obtaining consents from SPCBs / PCCs.

Information related to pollution potential of railway stations was assessed by an expert committee of CPCB and railway stations, which were categorised into red / orange / green categories.

All this information was compiled by the CPCB in a report in compliance of the NGT order.

Use of reverse osmosis tech

Excessive loss of water because of the use of reverse osmosis (RO) technology in the country was taken up by the NGT July 13.

The two-member bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sonam Phintso Wangdi noted a delay by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

The delay was in issuing a notification to prohibit the use of RO in the manner laid by the NGT in its May 20, 2019 order.

The MoEF&CC sought an extension of time due to the countrywide lockdown, despite the passing of a year. The court directed necessary action to now be “completed positively” by December 31, 2020.

The matter was listed for further consideration in January 25, 2021.

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