Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (August 12, 2020)

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 12 August 2020

STPs in Bihar to control Ganga pollution

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) filed its report before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) August 10, 2020 on the status of several sewage treatment plants (STP) / sewerage infrastructure projects in Bihar as of July.

The report said a few of the STPs / sewerage infrastructure projects continued to be delayed in Bihar due to finalisation of tenders (projects in Danapur, Fatuha, Hajipur, Munger and Phulwari Sharif).

This was despite providing all necessary support, directions and repeated reminders by the NMCG / Union Ministry of Jal Shakti (water) in this regard.

Major tributaries of the Ganga selected for the prevention of discharge of untreated industrial waste and sewage were Bagmati, Burhi Gandak, Gandak, Kiul, Kosi, Mahananda, Parmar, Punpun, Ramrekha, Sikrahana, Sirsia and Sone rivers.

A project comprising incision and draining and STP of seven million litres per day capacity was approved for Rs 35.49 crore for Punpun. Projects for the remaining tributaries were under a detailed project report (DPR) preparation stage said these projects were expected to be completed by June 2021.

This may not happen as the state was yet to prepare a DPR for the projects before initiating the process for its sanction and implementation.

The state said no control structure existed over the stretch of the Ganga in the state with regard to maintenance of ecological flow (e-flow) in the Ganga. No action, thus, was required to be taken. 

Bihar, however, informed the Union government to issue an order on e-flow release for the lower reaches of the Ganga. The contribution of the upper riparian states should be fixed towards e-flow and requirement for honouring the Indo-Bangladesh Treaty, 1996.

The Union government already issued a notification towards the release of e-flow at last control structure on the Ganga in Kanpur.

With regard to development of biodiversity parks in the floodplain area, Bihar was in the process of devising suitable arrangements between the departments of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Water Resources, Revenue and Land Reforms as well as the district administration for the selection and transfer of suitable land area in the floodplain of the river for development of biodiversity parks.

Mining in Sariska Tiger Reserve

The NGT August 10 directed the constitution of a joint committee to look into the matter of illegal mining in the tiger reserve in Rajasthan’s Alwar district.

The committee will consist of officials from the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board, the Alwar district magistrate and principal chief conservator of forests (head of forest force), Rajasthan.

A report must be filed before the NGT within two months, giving the estimate of illegal mining, the number of mines sanctioned in the area and a regulatory mechanism to check illegal mining in the eco-sensitive area.

The order came in the wake of a July 27 media report that alleged the mowing down of a forest home guard by a tractor was done by the suspected mining mafia inside the Sariska reserve after he attempted to stop them along with a colleague.

The newspaper report said the reserve was spread across 1,281 square kilometres area and was divided into six ranges. There were 108 forest guards, less than the sanctioned strength of 132.

With the menace of frequent attacks in Sariska over illegal mining and grazing among others, unarmed forest guards often struggled to protect the area. This was not the first time villagers attacked forest officials.

The tribunal said it hoped the state of Rajasthan will monitor the enforcement of law at an appropriate higher level and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will coordinate with the concerned state authorities.

“To maintain the morale of the guards and other enforcement officials and to uphold the rule of law, the family of the deceased ought to be suitably rehabilitated and police machinery must ensure that guilty is apprehended expeditiously and brought to justice,” the order said.

Illegal mining in tiger reserve must be strictly dealt with, it added.

Asbestos mines in Chaibasa

A report filed by the Jharkhand government before the NGT listed steps taken for the restoration of the area under the Roro asbestos mines in Chaibasa, West Singhbhum district.

The lease for such mines was in favour of Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Product Ltd. The mines stopped working in 1983. Safety measures for the restitution of mines to mitigate adverse environmental and health impact in the area, however, were not taken.

Asbestos dust-based pollution continued to be emitted, resulting in health hazards and the contamination of ponds and streams.

The tribunal was informed by the state of Jharkhand that several schemes related to reclamation and rehabilitation of abandoned asbestos mines at Roro village were taken.

These included the construction of a water tower in Mundasai at Roro village, within Bada Lagiya panchayat. Health check-ups — with a preliminary screening at the cost of Rs 150,000 — of 565 local residents was conducted. Symptoms of asbestosis disease were found in 164 of 565 local residents. X-ray tests were conducted for 126 of the 164 local residents.

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