Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (October 29, 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 29 October 2020

Water mafia

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) October 28, 2020 directed the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) to take prompt action in the matter of illegal extraction of groundwater at Rawatbhata, Chittorgarh district, by ‘water mafia’ for commercial purpose.

The NGT in its February 5 order had ordered the RSPCB to ensure that the compensation regime to effectuate the ‘polluter pays’ principle be properly implemented so that “violation of law does not remain profitable”.

In furtherance to the NGT order, a report was filed by the RSPCB October 26, which only mentioned that a show-cause notice was given to the project proponents, to which objections had been filed. It added that the matter was under consideration.

The NGT expressed its displeasure at the delay in taking effective steps. The court deferred the proceedings and directed the RSPCB to take prompt action in the matter and file action taken report before February 22, 2021.

MoEF&CC notification on mining

The NGT directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to revisit its notification of March 28, 2020, that amended the September 14, 2006 one on the requirement of Environment Clearance (EC) before undertaking projects impacting environment.

The new amendment exempted new lessees of mining leases (in respect of leases where EC had been earlier granted in favour of the previous leasee) to require EC for two years from the date of the original lease.

Further exemption was granted for extraction of earth for linear projects such as roads, pipelines, etc, dredging and desilting of dams, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, river and canals for their maintenance, upkeep and disaster management.

The NGT said two issues needed to be looked into.

First was exemption to a leasee where EC was earlier granted, but a fresh lease was granted before expiry of validity of EC. It said there could be justification for the exemption as such, but some mechanism was required for damage assessment and mitigation measures in respect to a particular lease at the time of transfer.

Further, some time limit must be fixed for the new lease applying for the EC.

The second issue was exemption from requirement of EC for extracting / sourcing / borrowing of ordinary earth for the linear projects such as roads, pipelines, etc and for dredging and de-silting of dams, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, river and canals for the purpose of their maintenance, upkeep and disaster management.

NGT said it was possible to take a view that the EC could be exempted for these situations on account of assessment already made or for extraction of earth for linear project, but such blanket exemption must be balanced by sustainable development concept.

The exemption should strike balance and instead of being blanket exemption, it needed to be hedged by appropriate safeguards such as the process of excavation and quantum. 

Safeguards were required to be incorporated in terms of disposal of dredged material. These aspects were not shown to have been considered and the reply by the MoEF&CC did not provide any explanation on it, the NGT October 28 order said.

Lalitpur Power Generation Company

The NGT defered proceedings in the case of environmental breach by Lalitpur Power Generation Company Limited (LPGC) to February 19, 2021. The Bench of judges Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sheo Kumar Singh said it hoped LPGC would understand its legal responsibility to the environment as well as rule of law and take effective measures.

The court noted that the matter was considered on several occasions in the last two years. Regular violation of environmental norms was found on various issues like fly ash disposal, installation of continuous ambient air quality monitoring station (CAAQMS), handling hazardous waste, control of fugitive emissions, adequate tree plantation and proper operation of sewage treatment plant (STP).

On February 17, the court had directed that installation of flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) be completed within six months.

The NGT said the report by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board of August 13 did not indicate any satisfactory progress on the subject of installation of FGD and other deficiencies on the subject.

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