Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (April 12, 2023)

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: Thursday 13 April 2023

Sewage discharge into Yamuna river at Agra

Huge gaps in sewage management in Agra were flagged by a bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sudhir Agarwal of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) April 11, 2023. The city’s treated sewage was being discharged into Yamuna instead of being utilised, the court noted.

A report by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) submitted on February 24, 2023 acknowledged the “discharge of 131 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated sewage in Yamuna river and failure of the authorities to take necessary remedial action”. 

From the reports filed, it appears the authorities have no urgency for providing sewage treatment plants (STP), the NGT said. No STP seems to have been set up after the year 2014, it added.

The NGT directed the chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, in coordination with other state authorities concerned, to ensure remedial action. A special meeting of officers concerned should be convened, preferably within one month, to assess if all the existing nine STPs in Agra are fully utilised and comply with standards, the court further said. 

In addition, treated effluents should be utilised for secondary purposes with “defined sources / command area, untapped, partially tapped drains be intercepted and diverted to STPs, the performance of in-situ projects is evaluated, fortnightly monitoring of existing treatment of wastewater concerning consent conditions takes place,” the NGT said.

It directed an action-taken report be filed within four months and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was told to file a report relating to chlorination, ferti-irrigation, the performance of STPs and in-situ remediation projects in Agra.

Out of 91 drains in Agra, 21 drains (58.25 MLD flow) are tapped, nine drains are partially tapped (210.82 MLD) and 61 drains (16.93 MLD) remain untapped and thus untreated effluent goes to river Yamuna, the NGT noted. In all, 286 MLD of sewage flows into drains and only 58.25 MLD is tapped.

Brick kilns in Mathura flouting environmental norms

The NGT directed UPPCB and the district magistrate of Mathura, UP to look into brick kilns in Mathura flouting environmental norms. An application filed by Mahendra Singh in the court alleged continued violation of environmental norms in the operation of two brick kilns — OPN Brick Udyog and Shiv Ent Udyog — in Mathura. 

The court directed verification of the factual position and taking of remedial action following due process of law. An action taken report is to be filed by the authorities within two months.

A May 9, 2022 order by the NGT issued directions for compliance with environmental norms by brick kilns in Mathura district, the petitioner said. 

Several kilns in Mathura were not adhering to the siting guidelines and were not complying with consent conditions and air quality norms, Singh alleged. 

Fly ash discharge on West Bengal farm land

A joint committee was directed by the NGT April 10 to determine reasonable compensation for the farmers affected by the discharge by Raghunathpur Thermal Power Plant on agricultural lands in villages Ghutitora, Lachhiara, Valdubi, Asta, Pathuriadanga and Khairabad in Purulia district, West Bengal.

The committee will be headed by West Bengal’s additional chief secretary for environment, along with West Bengal Pollution Control Board, district magistrate for Purulia, Central Pollution Control Board and state director for agriculture as members.  

While some steps have been taken to prevent the discharge of polluted water on lands, the same cannot be held to be adequate, the NGT, Eastern Zone Bench, Kolkata said.

The court was informed that a settling pond had been set up to prevent fly ash, but it was not clear where the excess fly ash and water were being taken. It was also not clear how affected farmers have been compensated for the loss of not being able to cultivate the land for a long period, as noted in the joint committee report filed before the NGT.

Further steps are required to utilise fly ash at the earliest, the court added.

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