Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal
Central Monitoring Committee for forest fires to be expanded
On May 28, 2019, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed that changes be made in the Central Monitoring Committee on forest fires to develop a robust institutional mechanism for the implementation of the National Action Plan on Forest Fire (NPFF) in order to control increasing incidents of forest fire.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by senior advocate Rajiv Dutta drawing its attention to the massive forest fires in hilly areas.
The tribunal said the committee should now be headed by the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It would meet once in three months and address all issues arising out of forest fires, including the effective implementation of the NAPFF.
The NGT also directed that a national level database was to be developed under the NAPFF for burnt area assessment, which should have standardised protocols and procedures to facilitate the reporting of the area affected and losses due to forest fires. The database is to be developed by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun in association with the Forest Survey of India and other institutions.
Manual and guidelines on operation of STPS soon
On May 28, 2019, the NGT directed that the recommendations suggested in a report by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) on the operation of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) be carried out and a new report be furnished to the DPCC.
The report in question had said there were deficiencies in the operation of STPs near Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, which led to the release of hazardous gases. The measures suggested by the report include components of STPs being kept in operational condition so that chances of anaerobic process were minimal, effective odour control mechanisms and plantation towards the residential areas.
The NGT also directed the Central Public Health Environmental Engineering Organization of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to bring out guidelines and a manual on the operations and maintenance of STPs. These are to be brought out within three months.
Carrying capacity assessment of geographically fragile areas of Himachal still not completed
On May 28, 2019, the NGT gave more time to the Himachal Pradesh government to take effective steps on completing the carrying capacity assessment of the ecologically sensitive and geographically fragile areas in the state.
On September 19, 2018, the degradation of Kullu and Manali in terms of air and water pollution as well as the encroachment of forest lands and construction in the flood plains of the Beas and Ravi rivers had first come up for hearing before the NGT.
Then, the tribunal had ordered that carrying capacity assessment, particularly of Manali and Mcleodgang, be conducted by a joint inspection committee, taking into account factors like vehicular traffic, parking space, air quality, earthquakes, land bearing capacity of soil.
On May 28 though, when the matter came up for hearing again, the affidavit filed by Himachal Pradesh stated that there was no input from the National Disaster Management Authority and the land use map of Kullu Valley Planning area had not been finalised.
The NGT also directed the Secretary, Town and Country Planning Department and Member Secretary, State Pollution Control Board to remain present in person with the compliance report on the next date.
Illegal constructions and dumping of waste imperiling East Kolkata Wetlands
On May 27, 2019, the NGT directed the East Kolkata Wetland Authority and the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation to fence the area around the Mollar Bheri, where the corporation has been dumping its solid waste, to prevent leachate and slurry.
The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by environmental activist Subhas Datta, highlighting the exploitation of the East Kolkata Wetlands. A survey conducted by Datta has revealed that a large number of constructions have sprung up within the area for commercial/ industrial and other activities. These constructions are deleterious to the water body.
A large number of plastic reprocessing units have also been set up on the Bantala-Basanti highway. Leather industries being operated with brick built ovens and other make-shift structures under the open sky are causing heavy air as well as water pollution.
The tribunal also directed the constitution of a committee to consider the various aspects of the matter. The committee would be physically inspecting of the entire Kolkata Wetland Area. The entire exercise has to be completed within three months and a report has to be submitted.
Stone crushing units operating without necessary clearances in South and North-Middle Andaman
On May 28, 2019, the NGT directed that an inspection should be conducted to verify as to whether stone mining units were operating on South and North-Middle Andaman in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands without necessary statutory clearances.
The tribunal was hearing an application which said the units were operating without environmental clearance, Consent to Operate and necessary CRZ clearance.
The NGT directed that in the event that the units were found to be operating illegally, the Andaman & Nicobar Pollution Control Committee and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change were to take appropriate action in accordance with law.
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