Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (October 27, 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 27 October 2020

Piparwar open cast project

Air, water and soil pollution by fugitive emission of coal dust due to the handling and transportation of coal were the most important public health impacts of mining at the Pipawar Opencast Coal Mining Project (OCP) in Jharkhand.

The report detailing this was submitted by a joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on environmental violations by Central Coalfields Ltd at Piparwar OCP. It was uploaded to the court’s website October 27, 2020.

The Pipawar OCP is no longer extracting coal, but has been in non-compliance of a number of environmental clearance (EC) conditions. This non-compliance has persisted for many years, the report said.

The North Karanpura coalfield in Jharkhand had a large number of coal deposits and old mines that were reaching the end of their lives like the Sanghamitra OCP, Ashoka West OCP and Piparwar Expansion OCP, the report said.

Attracted by the coal deposits, the region was seeing an expansion in coal-based thermal power plants (TPPs). The 2,400-megawatt Tandwa TPP by NTPC was about to be commissioned and several TPPs were planned in a 25 km radius of Dakra.

The committee said the cumulative environmental impacts of these developments could not be understood through individual environmental impact assessments or investigations of individual projects. In particular, coal transport occurred outside project premises, on public roads or via common railway sidings used by multiple projects.

In a region rich in rivers, the impact of cumulative forest loss and mining activities on rivers and groundwater hydrology could be understood only at the catchment or sub-basin scale.

The public health and socio-economic impacts of such large-scale mining and TPP would be non-linear and complex.

Neyveli boiler blast

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) October 23, 2020 filed its report with the NGT on the boiler blast of July 1 at thermal power station-II of Neyveli Lignite Corp India Ltd (NLCIL) at Neyveli in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district, that left six people dead and 17 injured.

The root cause of the accident according to the CPCB was:

  • Insufficient knowledge among staff
  • Insufficient knowledge of the chemical properties of lignite, especially formation of water gas when water is applied on lignite in hot conditions
  • Poor safety protocol, poor safety awareness
  • Inadequate risk assessment and response
  • Poor process safety management systems
  • Failure in conducting awareness programmes among all employees and workers about handling the smoldering.

The onsite emergency plan prepared by the NLCIL lacked any measures to combat smoldering. It only provided for fire occurrences and other accident scenarios. The NLCIL had no emergency plan to tackle the smoldering and water gas generation, the report said.

Vizag blast

Sainor Life Sciences Ltd in Visakhapatnam and its employees were responsible for the accident which occurred June 29, 2020, leading to the death of two of its employees and injury to four, according to a CPCB report.

Sainor Life Sciences Ltd, located in Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City, Parwada, is involved in the manufacture of intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, mainly anti-ulcerative and anti-allergic drugs.

The immediate trigger to the accident was the transfer of stage-III mother liquor (ML) to reactor-107 which already contained stage-I ML directly by inserting a hose pipe without nipple arrangement.

The report said there was ‘operational negligence’ on part of the company, including:

  • Lack of standard operating procedure (SOP) for transfer of material from one reactor to another and on cleaning of reactors
  • Lack of awareness of personnel on SOPs, non-compliance of SOPs by employees
  • Non-compliance of safety practices by employees
  • Non-issuance of personnel protective equipment by unit and non-usage of personal protective equipment by employees
  • No proper labelling on reactors regarding status of reactors
  • Absence of gas sensors and alarm system in process area to detect gases and alert the personnel of possible leakages
  • Engaging newly recruited contractual persons for work in process area, lack of training and emergency preparedness
  • Lack of systematic and organised mode of communication in the unit

All of this contributed to the accident, the CPCB said.

The report submitted to the NGT was made available online October 27, 2020.

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