Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (September 9-13)

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 14 September 2019

Access to clean drinking water

When more than a crore of the country’s population is affected by arsenic contaminated water, it is the “inalienable constitutional duty” of the central and state governments to supply clean drinking water to people, said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on September 11, 2019

The tribunal was hearing a matter regarding steps taken to deal with contamination of groundwater due to arsenic and availability of clean drinking water in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab and West Bengal.

The Centre should take the lead and relook at the existing plan to combat the arsenic menace, said the NGT. The tribunal ordered that states should consider viable options for immediate supply of drinking water and the central government must monitor it. Also, a compliance report must be filed by the secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti.

‘Harvest rainwater in Delhi’

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) took up the report on groundwater recharge, pollution and regulation in Delhi submitted by the independent monitoring committee, headed by former Delhi High Court judge SP Garg.

The report noted that 22 out of 34 units were over-exploited (dark blocks), two were critical, seven semi-critical and three safe. The committee recommended rainwater harvesting for storing rainwater and recharge of ground water. The report also stressed on reusing and use of treated water in gardens and toilets.

The three-member NGT bench of Justices Adarsh Kr Goel, SP Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan asked the committee to continue according to its action plan and advised to take help of officers are working on rejuvenation of lakes.

It also passed some directions, pending further report from the committee:

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) was directed to prepare an action plan to ensure RWH systems are installed in all government buildings, group-housing societies, new buildings where occupancy certificate is yet to be issued. Existing buildings of governments and societies without RWH must furnish a declaration of compliance.

Technical specification for RWH systems and list of available service providers should be on the DJB website and local bodies within a month. “If specified categories of owners / occupiers of buildings fail to install RWH and recharge systems by 31.12.2019, the amount of compensation, which may be specified within one month by the DJB, may be recovered and credited to a separate account,” said the September 11, 2019 order.

Yamuna pollution

Execution of directions of the NGT judgement of January 13, 2015 on control of pollution and rejuvenation of the Yamuna in Delhi was taken up by the tribunal. It expressing its displeasure at delay in the implementation of court directions and asked for “clear time-bound plan with flexibility and due to accountability for failure by way of departmental action and monetary compensation”.

The rescheduled timelines have to be compressed so as to complete every action by December 2020. The chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have to personally oversee the compliance. The order was uploaded for general public on September 11, 2019.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was asked to undertake physical demarcation of the entire Yamuna floodplain within three months. After gaining back possession, it must fence such areas and convert them into biodiversity parks.

The cultivation of edible crop and the dumping of waste has been prohibited. Leftovers from religious rituals should be thrown at designated sites, to be ensured by the DDA and the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

The DDA was also directed to restore flood plains so that they can performs their requisite ecological functions and an action plan submitted to the Monitoring Committee with timelines within a month.

The Delhi Pollution Control Commitee has to submit monthly reports on the water quality to the committee, which should contain data on faecal coliform.

The DJB has been entrusted to prepare an action plan with timelines for better capacity utilisation of sewage treatment plants (STPs) by tapping the drain “as a short-term measure to reduce pollution in River Yamuna within one month”.

Haryana has to finish construction of new STPs and upgrade existing ones by December 31, 2020. Principal secretaries, environment and forest and urban developments were asked to prepare short- and long-term plans to control the flow of sewage from Uttar Pradesh into the Yamuna at Ghaziabad with timelines for execution.

Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2016

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on September 12, 2019 directed the chief secretaries of all states and Union territories to submit information to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for its reports dealing with the compliance of the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.

The NGT took the step after the CPCB informed it that state-level reports were not complete for want of sufficient information from the states and Union territories. The information required relates to some thematic areas like compliance to Solid Waste Rules (including legacy waste), Bio-Medical Waste Rules, construction and demolition waste, Hazardous Waste Rules, E-Waste Rules and others.

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