Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal
Treatment of patients with COVID-19
The Supreme Court August 31, 2020 directed a meeting of health ministers / secretaries of all states and Union territories (UT) to be convened to create a health plan focusing on the poor and vulnerable sections of the society.
The top court heard the petition for regulating the cost of treatment of patients infected with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at private / corporate hospitals across the country. All states and UTs — within two weeks of the first meeting — must be advised to come up with a master plan focusing on the marginalised sections of society, according to the order.
The plan must be both legislative and executive — taking cue from the already existing public health acts of various states and the National Health Bill, 2009, the order said. A second meeting of the health ministers / secretaries of all states and UTs may be convened for the purpose of collating the information received from the states and UTs regarding the steps taken.
After receipt of the information, the Union government may file a comprehensive report with a compilation of the information received.
The top court bench of Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said the states that already have public health acts should be advised to finetune their existing enactments on the model of the National Health Bill, 2009.
A complaint was filed September 1 at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by one Akash Vashistha over the construction of a metalled road near the river bed of the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh’s Vrindavan along with other permanent illegal construction.
The road was used to facilitate illegal reclamation of floodplains and led to dumping of debris on the Cheer, Govind and Bhramar ghats (pier). This caused irreparable damage to the ghats and obstructed the natural flow of the river, according to the report.
The applicant mentioned a report based on a site inspection that took place August 14, 2019. The report stated the floodplain was separated from the bathing ghats by a road that was laid on the floodplain. The floodplain and the water course of one channel were completely encroached and massive buildings were constructed.
Vashistha requested the illegal concrete road constructed on the Yamuna floodplains of Vrindavan-Mathura between Shringarvat and Keshi Ghat be removed, along with an allegedly illegal cow shed. Further, all temporary and permanent construction on the Yamuna floodplains must be removed.
Bhagwati stone crusher
The Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) filed its report to the NGT on a unit of Bhagwati Stone Crusher Pvt Ltd in Bharatpur district’s Jaswar village. The report was in compliance with an October 17, 2019 court order of for inspection of the stone crusher.
It was alleged the stone crusher was located within 200 metres of a school and was close to the habitation, resulting in environmental degradation and affecting public health. The RSPCB informed the NGT the stone crusher had valid consent to operate and had conducted inspection and air monitoring of the disputed stone crusher September 20, 2019.
The project proponent installed covers on vibrating screen, jaw crusher and granulator, according to the inspection report. Wind breaking walls, a boundary wall and hard surface road were also constructed and the project proponent conducted more than 33 per cent plantation.
Another inspection was done by the RSPCB March 12 for the verification of the nearest school and habitation around the stone crusher. The headmaster of the school and the villagers of Jaswar said there was no objection from their side to the operation of the stone crusher.
The report informed the NGT that the crusher was bound with rocky hills from three sides and these rocky hills worked as wind breakers for the crusher.
Environment conservation in Govardhan
The NGT directed the constitution of a joint committee compliance status of the orders of the NGT for protecting the environment in Govardhan and surrounding areas, particularly Giriraj parvat (mountain) near Mathura-Vrindavan.
The committee must comprise of senior functionaries of Uttar Pradesh who would meet at least once a month and take stock of the compliance status.
The committee could involve any other experts or institutions for eco restoration of the area, including genuine religious or charitable institutions and members of the community, to the extent considered useful and necessary by the committee.
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