Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (November 1-8)

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
Last Updated: Sunday 10 November 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Pollution in Ambapada and Mahul near Mumbai

The NGT on November 6 asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to file its report on steps to control air pollution in the villages of Ambapada and Mahul near Mumbai within three months.

The CPCB had sought an extension of six months to submit its final report.

The status report filed by the CPCB had mentioned that the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had issued directions under the Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981 to Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd for not completing steps to reduce air pollution in stipulated time according to the approved action plan.

The oil majors, along with logistic services have been cited as the major contributors to air pollution in the area.

Allegations against Jubliant in Amroha 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 1, 2019 heard the case of violation of environmental norms by Jubilent Group of Industries at Gajraula, in Uttar Pradesh's Amroha district, affecting the health of inhabitants there. 

A joint committee of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), UPPCB, the state health department, the district administration, UP Jal Nigam — the water authority — the horticulture department and the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Amroha — an agri centre — submitted its report on September 13.

The panel inspected seven industries of the group, which included  a coal-based power plant, distillery unit, fertiliser unit, a polymer unit and chemical units.

It observed that a captive power plant failed to meet the nitrogen dioxide emissions norms and its molasses-based distillery was operating without permission to extract ground water after April 4, 2019.

The report noted that the area deteriorated to ‘over-exploited’ from ‘semi-critical’. “In such a situation, while extraction of groundwater for drinking purposes may stand on different footing, there is no absolute right for such extraction for industrial purposes. Such extraction may lead to further deterioration of limited groundwater resource depriving the inhabitants of access to drinking water,” the NGT order said.

The green bench made it clear that remedial actions were be taken “if the units are to continue to function consistent with ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Precautionary’ principles” and that the activities of units have to be suitably regulated, stoppped or restricted as the case may be. It directed the committee to file further action-taken report within two months.

Air pollution in Delhi

The Supreme Court (SC) on November 6, 2019 directed the state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide financial incentives and support to small and marginal farmers to combat stubble burning contributing to air pollution in Delhi.

The SC directed that the small and marginal farmers who have not burnt the stubble in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh be provided financial support of Rs 100 per quintal of non-basmati paddy within seven days by the state governments. 

The states have to provide the machines that will take care of the stubble like happy seeders, hydraulically reversible MB plough, paddy straw chopper to the farmers who cannot afford the machines for the time being free of cost and submit an action taken report in one month.

The Union Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have been directed to prepare a comprehensive scheme of providing modern equipment to farmers and such a scheme should be prepared not only for the above mentioned states but for various other states where such facilities are lacking and are required to be provided.

The scheme has to be worked out within three months and in the time being the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have to disburse the money for the purpose.

“To punish farmers is not an ultimate solution. To provide them the basic facilities, amenities and modern equipment is the call of the day, which has not taken place and the benefits which are being given to the cooperative societies are being usurped mostly by the big farmers. Small and marginal farmers are still not able to reap the fruits of these schemes/machines,” the order added.

The Government of Delhi has been asked to submit a plan on unpaved roads, pits and potholes and also list the time frame to improve the condition of the roads.

Jagannath Temple administration

The SC on November 4 directed the Government of Odisha to frame a plan, with support from the Jagannath temple administration, for providing shelter and other facilities to people visiting the shrine.

The temple administration has been asked to maintain hygiene in its rosaghar (kitchen) and to ensure that the preparation of food is done in permanently covered areas.

For this purpose, the Archaeological Survey of India has been ordered to clear the plan for construction of sheds / permanent structures while ensuring that the form of the new structure is maintained in the same manner as the ancient one.

The SC has also directed that a proper effluent treatment plant and waste management system be set up, alongwith toilets with modern amenities, keeping in mind the average footfall in the temple, which is large. The state government has to depute a full time Chief Administrator for managing the temple.

The SC was responding to a PIL filed by Mrinalini Padhi seeking better administration and facilities for pilgrims coming to the temple.

Preponing of paddy sowing

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 7, 2019 disposed of an application filed by Jai Gopal Dhiman, who had said a report calling for preponing of the sowing date of paddy from June 20 to June 13 would deplete groundwater.

The report had been submitted by a four-member Committee comprising one person from the Central Pollution Control Board and Punjab State Pollution Control Board each as well as one scientist named by the Punjab and Haryana Agriculture Universities.

The report had stated that the availability of short duration rice varieties provided the means for availing water saving benefits of transportation from June 20 onwards and also resolving the straw burning issue.

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