Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (September 10, 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 10 September 2020

Marina beach pollution

The NGT directed the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to strictly monitor the sources of pollution affecting the Marina beach in Chennai, including the illegal release of sewage and other effluents from sewage treatment plants (STP) and common effluent treatment plants (CETP), in coordination with concerned authorities.

The order was in pursuance to a joint committee report on the huge collection of foam at Marina Beach, Chennai.

According to the report, the following could be the reasons for the collection of foam at Marina beach:  

  • Due to heavy rain, the flow of the Adyar river had increased causing disturbance of debris at the bottom and sludge, in turn leading to froth formation due to high mixing / turbulence. 
  • Another reason for the frothing of the sea could be the sediments (containing organic matter) from the desilting of the Adyar. The desilting done by the Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT) could have reached the sea. 
  • An analysis report showed variations in the water quality on the day of froth formation and a normal day, indicating that rain water and sewage had mixed. There was a chance of bypassing of untreated / partially treated sewage from Common Sewage Treatment Plants (CSTP) of capacity 23 million litres per day (MLD), 54 MLD extension 1 and 40 MLD extension 2, located at Nesapakkam operated by the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board into the river during the rains before the date of sea foam occurrence.

The TNPCB would monitor the CSTPs at Nesapakkam so as to avoid recurrence of sea foam at the mouth of the Adyar. Moreover, the flow meters installed at CSTPs should be connected to TNPCB’s online monitoring system for effective monitoring, the report recommended.

The CRRT was reviewing the performance of the works carried out regularly.

The action plan of the CRRT involved the abatement of pollution, eviction of encroachments, plugging of sewer in-falls providing interceptors and diversion arrangements, modular sewage treatment plants, widening and deepening of waterways, the report said.

Cigarette and bidi butt disposal

A two-member bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) September 9, 2020, directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to lay down guidelines for disposal of cigarette / bidi butts in the interest of the environment, within three months.

An application was filed September 23, 2015, with a prayer to regulate the disposal of cigarette and bidi butts, apart from prohibiting consumption of tobacco in public places. 

A notice was issued September 28, 2015, to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, CPCB, the Tobacco Board and other respondents.

The response of MoEF&CC was that cigarette and bidi butts were not listed as hazardous. The cellulose acetate, that is prepared by converting cellulose into an acetic acid ester, is essentially a biodegradable substance. However, the biodegradability of cellulose acetate is not necessarily satisfactory in practice.

The Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) filed a report July 9, 2020, on ‘whether cigarette and bidi butts fall within the category of toxic waste or not.’

The IITR report said the analysis of the cigarette / bidi butts reflect that according to the concentration of various parameters analysed, they are lower than the prescribed limits and would not be toxic to humans and the environment. However, cellulose acetate is a major component of the cigarette /bidi butts and its degradation studies show that it will persist for a longer duration.

Plastic waste management

The MoEF&CC had published the Draft Uniform Framework for Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) under Plastic Waste Management. This web-based application would bring new business opportunities for a varied range of stakeholders dealing with plastic waste, an affidavit filed before the NGT September 9 by the ministry, said.

The ministry was in the process of appointing an information technology agency for development of a web-based portal, the report added. 

Each plastic carry bag and multilayered packaging would have the name, registration number of the manufacturer and thickness printed in English, the report said.

The EPR guidelines suggest three different models for the producers, importers and brand owners to implement the EPR mechanism.

The State Pollution Control Board and Pollution Control Committee in respect of a Union Territory, are the authorities responsible for enforcement of the provisions of these rules related to registration, manufacture of plastic products and multilayered packaging, processing and disposal of plastic wastes, the report said. 

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