Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (April 18, 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: Wednesday 19 April 2023

Compensation for damage to crops

The Indian Railway Construction International Ltd (IRCON) should provide compensation for the loss of crops and damage to agricultural land it has caused, a joint committee report submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stated.

An NGT order dated February 10, 2023 had asked the joint committee to look into the issue. The damage allegedly occurred during the creation of a tunnel (T-77D) for the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramula Rail Link at Chanar village in Bankoot, Ramban district, Jammu & Kashmir. 

The joint committee visited the site March 31, 2023. The damaged agricultural land should be restored to its original condition by IRCON under the supervision of the agriculture officer concerned, it recommended. 

The applicant Asgar Ahmad Najar, who had filed the petition, was accompanied by other inhabitants of Chanar and representatives of the project proponent during the site visit.

A sedimentation tank with three chambers to treat muddy water coming out of T-77A was found near the tunnel’s northern face. However, there were no arrangements for settling or removal of the mud and slush. 

The unsettled muddy water was being discharged into the drain on the downslope passing through one side of the village, the report said. 

A gabion wall constructed by IRCON retained the muck along the bottom of the dump in the Railways-acquired land, the committee found. However, a small portion of the soil has started sliding down just below the gabion wall near the northern face. 

The committee recommended the project proponent ensure slope stability before leaving the site.

A report detailing points regarding the mining officer, horticulture officer, agriculture officer, cracks developed in the houses of the nearby village and the compensation was being separately filed by Ramban district magistrate, the panel report dated April 17, 2023 informed the court.

Elephant rides in Idukki district

An elephant ride named ‘Elephant Camp’ was being run by Biji P Mathew in Kumili in Idukki district, Kerala government’s additional chief secretary told the NGT. 

A case by Peermade Forest Range has been registered against Mathew for violating Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2012 in ‘Elephant Camp’. 

Another case by Peermade Forest Range was registered against him for violating the rules by conducting elephant rides in Tusker Trail Elephant Camp Kumily, First Mile.

“There are three more elephant camps around the Periyar Tiger Reserve, with about 20 elephants,” the report said. However, no elephant rides were being conducted inside the sanctuary.

The court was also informed that two captive female elephants (Rambha and Dulari) lost their lives in Idukki in 2022. Rambha died due to severe pyometra leading to peritonitis and systemic failure, while Dulari died due to senile lesions leading to multi-organ failure.

Temporary bridges for mining

The construction of temporary bridges on the Yamuna river to transport mined materials damage the riverine ecology and affect the river’s environmental flows, said a report submitted to the NGT. An amicus curiae was looking into illegal mining in the riverbed. 

“The environmental consequences of mining and its related physical activities impacting the environment are exclusively covered by the central legislation. The state government would not have the constitutional mandate to enact a policy for setting up temporary bridges for the sole purpose of mining across the river Yamuna,” stated the report dated April 17, 2023.

The miner, Yodha Mines & Minerals, allegedly diverted the course of the river by constructing an illegal bridge on it.

The company was granted environmental clearance by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India on January 28, 2016. It was allowed sand mining with a production capacity of 1.6 million tonnes per annum of sand at Jainpur village, Sonipat district, Haryana. 

The mine lease area is primarily on the riverbed of Yamuna (34.4 hectares) and partly outside the riverbed (10 ha) over a total area of 44.4 ha in Sonipat.

The cardinal principle is that a mining activity can be carried on only in strict conformity with the conditions mandated under the EC, the report stated. In the present case, there is no material on record to demonstrate that the mining plan and / or the fact that the EC had considered and approved the setting up of a bridge, it added.

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