Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (June 9, 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: Tuesday 09 June 2020
Gavel. Source: Getty images

Facilitate return of stranded workers: SC

The Supreme Court (SC) on June 9, 2020 directed all states and Union Territories (UT) to “consider withdrawal of prosecution and complaints” under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act lodged against some migrant labourers. The migrant workers in question are alleged to have “violated novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown measures enforced under Disaster Management Act, 2005 by moving on roads.”

All states and UTs had been directed to take necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their states, who are willing to return to their native places. It directed them to take adequate steps for their return journey by train / bus. This has to be processed within 15 days.

It added that railways should provide Shramik trains within a period of 24 hours to facilitate their return journey. The central government has been asked to give details of all schemes that could be availed by migrant workers who have returned to their native places.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta informed the court that more than five million migrants returned homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh by Shramik trains. Around four million migrant workers reached their desired destinations through road transport. 

Remediation by Ashapura Perfoclay

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) filed an action-taken report on the remediation process of contaminated groundwater and gypsum removal by the industrial unit Ashapura Perfoclay Ltd, a manufacturer and supplier of bleaching earth, at Ler village in Kutch district.

Gypsum dumps of the unit were responsible for contaminating ground water with respect to ammonia, electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids.

The report was in pursuance to the November 20, 2019 National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, which called for conducting periodical checks and issuance of a public notice regarding the unfitness of groundwater for drinking and other uses.

Joint committee inspections by Central Pollution Control Board and GPCB were carried out in 2019 and 2020 to assess and verify the averments made by the unit regarding the remediation process in their monthly progress reports.

The inspections showed that the unit was engaged in the removal of gypsum from the dumped sites and 108,185.48 tonnes of gypsum was disposed by the unit from January 2019 till February 2020. Out of this, 85,739 tonnes had been disposed to cement industries for co-processing and 22,445.93 tonnes for backfilling of abandoned mines.

Out of 39 sites, the unit has lifted and removed gypsum from 26 sites.

The unit had obtained permission vide CCA Amendment of July 29, 2019 from GPCB for back filling waste gypsum in the abandoned mines at Mata Na Madh in Kutch. It had already started disposing waste gypsum in the said mine.

The unit had also obtained permission from GPCB for back filling of another abandoned mine located at village Pundi, Kutch.

Available records showed that the unit was using fresh lime for neutralisation process and had stopped using ammonia contaminated lime from GNFC and, thus, had eliminated the source of contamination.

The analysis trend of ground water samples showed that concentration of ammonical nitrogen decreased on both contaminated bore-wells where restoration process was in place. The concentration levels, however, were still significantly high.

Further, the unit was in the process of establishing one ground water recharge well that could help in reduction of contamination level.

The GPCB report stated that the unit was located in Kutch region of Gujarat, a rain deficient area, and extracted groundwater for restoration processes.

The unit should be directed to provide additional rainwater harvesting wells on suitable locations for speedy restoration as well as recharging of groundwater. 

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