Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (October 14-18)

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: Saturday 19 October 2019
Photo: Getty Images

Reclamation of mines in Goa

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on October 15, 2019 slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakhs on Goa government for the “absolute laxity and indifference” shown towards illegal mining and the failure on the part of the mining agency and the state in closing the mined out areas scientifically.

A joint report which was filed by the deputy collector/sub-divisional magistrate and the Directorate of Mines and Geology on April 3, 2019, lacked any mention of the steps taken to scientifically close the mines or of the coercive measure taken against illegal mining.

A revised report was thus asked for, which stated that proceeding had been initiated under the Land Revenue Court and the land revenue rules against the offending party for restoration of the land to its original use. It was stated that a compliance report would be furnished in due course of time.

The tribunal expressed its disappointment at the progress report filed by the Directorate of Mines and Geology on August 27, 2019 and especially pointed out the suggestion put forward for filling up the mined-out pits with solid waste.

The court has asked the Directorate of Mines and Geology as well as to the state pollution control board to submit a detailed report in a month.

Manufacturing of recycled plastic granules

The NGT on October 15 directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to take steps to prevent polluting activities of units engaged in the process of manufacturing gitti (recycled plastic granules) for use of plastic pipes at Malegaon.

“While polluting activities cannot be allowed to continue on the ground that alternative sites may have to be explored, it is open to the authorities to take steps in that direction,” said the tribunal in its order.

“The industrial activity ought to be allowed without causing damage to the environment. The existing proposal for shifting of the units from residential area to any other area may be considered on its own merit,” read the order.

The Central Pollution Control Board had, on September 9, apprised the tribunal in a report that the list of 203 units as given by the Malegaon Municipal Corporation to be engaged in plastic related activities was not comprehensive and there can be more units engaged in the polluting activities.

Further, the list does not have information about the type of activities being carried out in terms of storage or sorting or recycling of waste plastics or manufacturing of pipes from plastic lump (gitti) derived from waste plastic recycling.

Also, not all plastic waste recycling units to whom closure directions have been issued by MPCB and power supply disconnection has reportedly been done by Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation (MSEDCL) have closed their operations effectively, the report revealed.

Crop residue burning

The NGT on October 15 directed the Centre and state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab to publish data of crop fire incidents, list of responsible officers and action taken reports on their websites.

“Even in five years if the state machinery is not able to communicate to the concerned farmers the techniques of sowing crops without burning the residue, it is an unhappy situation that needs to be remedied,” said the tribunal.

“If an incentive is to be given, it is for the State to decide and provide for the same. Even central funds or schemes are not fully utilised,” the NGT order added. The tribunal also ordered that action plans and enforcement strategies must be reviewed and states should allocate necessary funds to prevent burning of crop residue.

Restrict use of plastic: NGT

The NGT on October 14 ordered government agencies concerned to act against the use of plastic bottles and multi-layered plastic packaging since it affects the environment and public health, based on an expert committee report.

These agencies include Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Bureau of Indian Standards, Central Pollution Control Board, Directorate General of Health Services and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The expert committee was constituted to see if any regulatory provisions were required on plastic packaging and, if so, to what extent.

The committee, in its report, proposed a systematic action plan that included institution of the concept of ‘plastic footprint’ discouraging small pack sizes and reducing plastic content in multi-layered plastic.

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