Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (June 6-12, 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: Sunday 14 June 2020

East Kolkata wetlands

Encroachment of the East Kolkata Wetlands and operation of illegal industries, especially plastic units, operating within the area without the necessary statutory clearances, was heard by the bench of Justice Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The case was first taken up on May 19, 2016, and since then, various directions had been passed for removal of illegal plastic manufacturing units and action taken against other bigger units that had been operating illegally.

The NGT directed an updated report to be filed within 30 days from the following respondents:

  • West Bengal Pollution Control Board
  • Directorate of Industries, government of West Bengal
  • Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Deputy Commissioner, South East Division
  • Kolkata Police

The case would be listed again before the court on July 14, 2020.

Gomti river pollution

A compliance report by the chief secretary, Uttar Pradesh government, stated that the polluted river stretch of Gomti had been identified by the Central Pollution Control Board from Sitapur to village Kaithi in Ghazipur district, the confluence point in river Ganga.

The report on measures to stem pollution in river Gomti was uploaded on the National Green Tribunal (NGT) site on June 11, 2020.

The length of the polluted river stretch was 628 kilometre.

On November 28, 2019, the chief secretary after going through the compliance reports filed by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Urban Development Department, directed the principal secretary, Urban Development Department, government of Uttar Pradesh vide letter dated November 28, 2019 to take immediate action to stem the pollution in river Gomti.

This included starting bio-remediation of untapped drains falling into river Gomti and Ramgarh Tal in Gorakhpur and fixing a timeline for the establishment of sewage treatment plants for the drains so that it could be reviewed regularly for effective and timely control of pollution.

The action plan was under implementation and was periodically monitored by the River Rejuvenation Committee, UP. Further, the water quality of the river was being monitored regularly at 25 points from Pilbhit to Varanasi.

The water quality showed improved trend: During April-June 2019, pollution level showed a downward trend at 7 of 11 monitoring points.

Encroachment in Jhinjharia stream

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on June 10, 2020 directed a joint committee to look into pollution of Jhinjharia stream with its outfall into Dhobia talab, a lake in Jharkhand’s Hazaribag.

It has been alleged that the stream, about five kilometres in length and 30 feet in width, is on the verge of extinction due to unauthorised and illegal constructions. The Dhobia talab, originally 12 acres in size, has shrunk to five-six acres.

River Konar, the main source of water for the Hazaribagh town, gets polluted due to the dirty water of the Jhinjaria stream. The complainant alleged that municipal solid waste as well as construction waste was being disposed of into Dhobia talab and Jhinhjaria stream.

The tribunal prohibited further construction in the area leading to encroachment of the water body and the stream. It also warned against disposing solid waste and discharging sewage in the water bodies. Status quo should be maintained strictly, the green body warned.

Facilitate return of stranded workers: SC

The Supreme Court (SC) on June 9, 2020 directed all states and Union Territories (UT) to “consider withdrawal of prosecution and complaints” under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act lodged against some migrant labourers. The migrant workers in question are alleged to have “violated novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown measures enforced under Disaster Management Act, 2005 by moving on roads.”

All states and UTs had been directed to take necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their states, who are willing to return to their native places. It directed them to take adequate steps for their return journey by train / bus. This has to be processed within 15 days.

It added that railways should provide Shramik trains within a period of 24 hours to facilitate their return journey. The central government has been asked to give details of all schemes that could be availed by migrant workers who have returned to their native places.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta informed the court that more than five million migrants returned homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh by Shramik trains. Around four million migrant workers reached their desired destinations through road transport. 

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