Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (March 17, 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
Last Updated: Tuesday 17 March 2020

COVID-19 preparedness 

Show cause as to why directions should not be issued for dealing with the present health crisis arising out of the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) in India, the Supreme Court (SC) directed officials in prisons and social welfare departments all Indian states and Union territories on March 16, 2020.

The court also asked the officials to suggest immediate measures to be adopted for medical assistance to prisoners in jails and juveniles in the remand homes.

The respondents have been asked to submit their replies in writing before March 20, 2020. The reply will contain the particulars of the steps being taken and the relevant data necessary for implementing the measures to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus among the prisoners / juveniles.

The SC noted that even though the government of India had advised that social distancing must be maintained to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the “bitter truth is that our prisons are overcrowded, making it difficult for the prisoners to maintain social distancing.”

There are 1,339 prisons in India, and approximately 4,66,084 inmates live in them. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the occupancy rate of Indian prisons is at 117.6 per cent, and in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, the occupancy rate is as high as 176.5 per cent and 157.3 per cent respectively. Like most other viral diseases, the susceptibility of COVID-19 is greater in over-crowded places and mass gatherings.

Mining leases

Mining leases allegedly granted illegally in the Chunar tehsel of Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district were inspected by a joint committee of the district administration, the state Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the state's director of environment on January 24, 2020.

This is according to the compliance report filed by the district magistrate and the state PCB and made public on March 17, 2020.

On the day of the committee visit, none of the mining sites showed any activity, the report added further.

According to a complaint, the procedure for granting environmental clearance was wrongly diluted for exempting public consultation and the environment management plan by wrongly treating the leases to be B-2 category projects.

Dumpyard waste 

The Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) filed its report on a waste disposal dump yard set up on the bank of the  Khoh river in Ratanpur village of Kotdwar district in Uttarakhand.

The collected waste of the Kotdwar Nagar Nigam was disposed at Paniyali Talli in Ratanpur, the report noted. The site was not developed scientifically and collected bio-degradabale and non-biodegradable wastes were being dumped at the site, being used by the Nagar Nigam since 2008, it added.

Moreover, the possibility of leachate from the dump site seeping into the river during rain was evident.

The UEPPCB had asked the municipality to immediately stop illegal dumping of solid wastes on the river bank and ensure cleaning of all dumped waste from the dump site at the earliest. The nagar nigam was also asked to establish a solid waste processing and disposal facility in accordance of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 at the earliest.

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