Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (June 4, 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: Thursday 04 June 2020

Biodiversity management committees

Uttarakhand, Goa and Kerala completed the formation of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) and preparation of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) in all their local bodies by January 31, 2020.

This was stated in an interim report filed by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in compliance with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of March 18, 2020.

The court had also directed all defaulting states to deposit Rs 10 lakh per month, starting from February 1, 2020 to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) till the time the task was fully completed.

Due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent lockdown announced by the Union government, there had been no significant progress in the formation of BMCs and preparation of PBRs since February 2020, the NBA report said.

State Biodiversity Board, Uttarakhand and State Biodiversity Board, Goa had informed NBA that they had completed the BMC formation and PBR preparation in all their local bodies by January 31, 2020. This was ascertained and found to be correct.

Uttarakhand completed the formation of BMCs in all the 7,991 local bodies and prepared the PBRs for all the 7,991 BMCs. Similarly, Goa completed the formation of BMCs in all the 205 local bodies and prepared the PBRs for all the 205 BMCs, the report added.

State Biodiversity Board (SBB), Kerala informed NBA that according to the Kerala State Biological Diversity Rules, 2008, framed according to the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, it had completed the formation of BMCs at the Gram Panchayat, municipality and corporation levels.

Kerala’s biodiversity wealth had been captured by the PBR preparation at these three levels and preparing PBR at block and district levels would only amount to duplication of work and incurring of additional cost, SBB, Kerala, said.

It therefore requested the NBA to remove the state from the list of defaulting states. As SBB, Kerala has completed the work in accordance with the Kerala State Biodiversity Rules, NBA has recommended to NGT that the state be exempted from paying the monetary penalty Rs. 10 lakh.

In addition, the members of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)-NBA PBR Monitoring Committee undertook visits to different states in February 2020, to evaluate the quality of PBRs prepared by the BMCs.

During the visit, it was found that the PBRs were prepared on a fast track basis by Uttar Pradesh. As the PBRs prepared by Uttar Pradesh were not in line with the guidelines circulated by NBA, the Uttar Pradesh government had been requested to prepare the PBRs according to the existing guidelines.

NTPC Sipat

A report was filed by the operators of the Sipat Super Thermal Power Project in Sipat village of Masturi tehsil at Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district in compliance with the NGT order of February 27, 2020.

A case had been filed in the NGT alleging that the thermal power plant was not adhering to the Environment Clearance (EC) conditions.

The report mentioned that the EC of Stage-I (3x660 MW) issued on February 22, 1999, had specified for the transportation of coal in closed wagons. NTPC Sipat had taken up this issue with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), citing the constraints in transportation of coal in closed wagons. Accordingly, Electricity Advisory Committee (Thermal Power) had considered the submissions made by NTPC Sipat.

“In accordance with the recommendations made by EAC, the MoEF&CC has accorded permission for waving the condition of transportation of coal with tarpaulin covered wagon vide its EC amendment letter dated October 9, 2019, subject to certain conditions,” the report said.

NTPC Sipat was abiding by the conditions mentioned in the amendment letter ie water sprinkling at loading point, unloading point, midpoint and half-a-kilometre before entry point — these conditions were being adhered to regularly and were in total compliance with the amended EC condition.

The total land acquired for the project was 4,382.44 acres and all the three ash dykes are well managed. There had been no leakage from any of the ash dykes. Decanted water from the ash pond was collected in an overflow lagoon from where water was pumped back into the plant and reused in the ash slurry process.

The report by NTPC Sipat added that over the years, ash utilisation percentage of the thermal power plant had improved from 18.63 per cent in 2017-18 to 49.54 per cent in 2018-19 and it was expected that by 2022, there would be 100 per cent ash utilisation according to the action plan submitted to the Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board.

Further, the thermal power plant had been supplying ash to cement industries, ash-based industries, NHAI Bilaspur — Patharapali highway projects, land reclamation and also in ash dyke embankments, as a substitute for sand and earth.

A study on the impact of the NTPC Sipat on forests and crops was done by TCB College of Agriculture, Bilaspur. During the study, three season samples had been collected and analysed, which showed that there was no adverse impact on the environment, according to the report.

Punjab water bodies

A total of 15,466 rural and 249 urban ponds have been identified in the state of Punjab by the department of rural development and panchayats (DRDP) and the department of local government respectively. 

This was stated in Action Plan for Rejuvenation of Ponds filed by the directorate of environment and climate change, department of science, technology and environment, government of Punjab.

The action plan was in pursuance of the NGT order of May 10, 2019, directing all states and Union Territories to review the existing framework of restoration of all the water bodies by preparing an appropriate action plan.

In the absence of any treatment facility for scientific disposal of sullage, most ponds in Punjab had become prominent disposal points for wastewater, the report informed the NGT.

The department of environment had prepared time-bound comprehensive action plans in consultation with various stakeholder departments for abatement of pollution in the rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ghaggar.

The action plans aim to achieve “Class B” river water quality (ie BOD <3 mg/l and FC< 500 MPN/100 ml), which is fit for bathing purposes. This means the amount of dissolved oxygen used by microorganisms in the biological process of metabolising organic matter in water should be less than three milligrams per litre. Faecal Coliform should be less than 500 MPN per 100 millilitres.

One of the key features of the action plans was setting up treatment facilities in 800 villages located in the catchment areas of the rivers by the department of rural development and panchayats. The villages having direct discharge (424) into the river were being taken on priority basis for setting up treatment facilities.  

The report also mentioned the various initiatives taken by the state, which included development of 343 village ponds by using various technologies and convincing the farmers to use pond water for irrigation by the department of rural development and panchayats.

Likewise, around 12,000 village ponds were cleaned under a special campaign of Mission Tandrust, Punjab in  June 2019 (before the monsoon) with a view to improving village hygiene. 

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