Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (September 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: Tuesday 29 September 2020

Asbestos mines in Roro Hills

HIL Ltd, in its report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), said the compliance report of the Department of Mines & Geology, Government of Jharkhand, on the asbestos mines in Roro hills, Chaibasa, West Singhbum was flawed.

The report of August 9 had proceeded on an incorrect and baseless assumption that safety measures for restitution of the asbestos mines to mitigate environmental and health impact were not taken by HIL.

Other incorrect assumptions were that steps to mitigate environmental and health impact were not taken and asbestos dust-based pollution continued to be emitted, resulting in health hazards and contamination of ponds and streams.

The asbestos mines were closed in 1983 and HIL had surrendered the mines in 1984 and the same was accepted by the Government of Bihar in 1985, the HIL report said. The Government of Bihar thereafter renotified the mine for granting fresh lease to the prospective lessees during the relevant time.

Acceptance of the duly surrendered mine by the Government of Bihar (now Jharkhand) and renotification thereafter established that the surrender of the mines by HIL was proper and fully compliant with the then prevalent laws.

Post the surrender of the mines after 1985, the possession of the subject mine was solely and exclusively with the state of Bihar (now with the state of Jharkhand) till date. Therefore, HIL could not be termed as a polluter. 

Electronic waste units in Loni

The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, in its report to the NGT September 28, recommended that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) could consider tapping the generators of electronic waste in Loni in Ghaziabad district under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) clause.

Dumping and channelisation of electronic waste from different parts of the country was a result of the failure of the producers to bring back the e-waste into the formal collection channels according to the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016, the report added.

For the purpose of disposal of bare polychlorinated biphenyls waste, the CPCB could consider setting up a pilot fine pulverisation unit or a unit based on any other technology it deemed fit.

The report informed the NGT that oficers of the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) and Loni tehsil had inspected the area on which the illegal e-waste industries were run against prescribed land use in the Master Plan of GDA. During the survey, 80 illegal units were identified and action taken against them under the relevant sections of the Uttar Pradesh Town Planning and Development Act 1973.

The report said the unauthorised units in Loni were small establishments engaged in burning, etching or smelting only.

Waste printed circuit boards (WPCBs) were a ‘high-value’ commodity to both the formal and informal e-waste recycling industry. WPCBs contain a variety of metals ranging from base metals like copper and aluminium to precious metals like gold, silver, platinum and palladium as well as critical metals of rare earth metals among others.

Once the WPCBs reach the informal sector, all the components on the boards are removed using screwdrivers, pliers and gas torches. Also, the boards itself have considerable amount of metal, primarily copper and tin. Thus, to extract copper, the boards are dipped in acid baths for the purpose of leaching.

This was the type of waste in the Loni region of Ghaziabad. The boards were bereft of most metallic fractions and represent what was known as the non- metallic fractions, which might consist of epoxy resin, glass fiber and some copper with impurities.

These boards possess an environmental risk and need to be disposed of by means of fine pulverisation and used further as fillers. Incineration or landfilling such waste is a short term and capital intensive process.

Flood plains of Yamuna

The bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the NGT dismissed an application filed by the Delhi Police for permission to raise construction for accommodation of police trainees in the flood plains of the Yamuna river. This was prohibited under orders of the NGT in Original Application No. 06/2012 (Manoj Mishra vs Union of India & Others).

The court said the project would be right on the flood plains and had potential for generating solid waste and sewage.

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