Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (October 20, 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 20 October 2020

Waste processing facility in Baner

About 15 residential apartments were found within 200-metre radius from the segregation and crushing facility in Baner, Pune, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) report uploaded to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) site October 19, 2020 stated.

Though measures such as misting, fogging and treatment of vent from shed and the slurry storage tank were taken by the plant operator for odour control, joint inspection officials felt prevalence of odour in and around the plant premises, the report stated.

The NGT vide order September 5, 2019 had directed the constitution of a committee comprising the Central Pollution Control Board and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to inspect the plant and the area in question and submit a report.

The MPCB had granted authorisation in December 2, 2015 under Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, to Noble Exchange Environment Solution to set up and operate crushing of food waste slurry at Baner.

The crushed organic waste slurry from the segregation and crushing facility at Baner was proposed to be transported to Noble Exchange Environment Solutions site at Ambi, taluka Maval, Pune, for bio-methanation of the slurry.

Kaleshwaram lift irrigation scheme

The NGT October 20 directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to constitute a seven-member expert committee to assess the extent of damage caused due to the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS) from 2008 to 2017 and identify the restoration measures necessary.

Relief and rehabilitation measures adopted and required to be further adopted would also be looked into by the joint committee.

The NGT refused to accept the stand of the project proponent, stating that KLIS was primarily meant for water supply and water management and that irrigation was subsidiary, and hence, environmental clearance was required prior to execution of the project.

The court noted that the project was predominantly for irrigation, though water supply was also involved. Plea to the contrary was untenable and thus, EC had been granted ex-post facto.

However, as the project was completed, the only issue remaining was of remedial action and future precautions, the NGT said.

An application was filed against the KLIS project with the NGT by Mohammad Hayath Udin citing the following discrepancies:

  • The infrastructure was being constructed prior to applying for Environmental Clearance (EC). EC was granted in December 2017 but before that substantial work had already been undertaken.
  • The project proponent wrongly claimed that the project was not for lift irrigation but only for drinking water supply till the grant of EC
  • The project underwent change by increase in capacity and inclusion of Mission Bhagiratha to provide drinking water to Hyderabad and certain villages of Telangana, but no fresh scoping was done.
  • There was discrepancy with regard to quantity of the forest land in the project.
  • Final EIA report wrongly stated there was no national park for wildlife sanctuary within a 10-km buffer.
  • The project was in seismic zone 2 and such a site was not suitable for the project.
  • Public hearing was not conducted as per procedure prescribed in the EIA notification.
  • It was submitted that even after the grant of EC, the project proponent did not follow the EC conditions.

Biodiversity Conservation

The Meghalaya Biodiversity Board in its affidavit to the NGT requested for extension of time till March 31, 2021 for completion of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) and preparation of the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) in the state. It also waived the cost imposed vide NGT order August 9, 2019.

The NGT March 18, 2020 had directed all states and union territories to place on record the present status of compliance of directions passed by the NGT vide orders August 9, 2019 and March 18, 2020 related to constitution of BMC and preparation of PBR by the BMC so constituted.

The report informed the court that around 4,850 out of 6,459 BMCs had been constituted and the rest would be constituted by the end of the year.

However, preparation of an exhaustive PBR documenting all the fauna, flora, aquatic life of such a dense biodiversity hotspot and peculiar topographical and geographical conditions of Meghalaya having places where humans are yet to set their foot would take time, the report said.

The short timeline to complete the preparation of all PBRs for other parts of the country was not practical and feasible for Meghalaya, the report added.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic also impeded the pace of constitution of BMCs. Physical visit to each of the 6,459 villages, most of them inaccessible by paved road, was difficult and would take more time.

Similarly, preparation of the PBRs also requires physical visits of the BMC members to their respective areas and consultation with local people. These physical visits got restricted due to COVID-19.

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