Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (September 8, 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 08 September 2020

Compensate for loss of forest area on Char Dham highway: SC

The Supreme Court (SC) directed the Union government to undertake plantation activities to compensate for the loss of forest area due to the construction of the Char Dham highway in Uttarakhand, according to media reports.

The highway — launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 — comprised projects aiming to improve over 889 kilometres length of national highways leading to pilgrimage sites Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

The apex court also ordered the Centre to comply with a 2018 circular of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) over the width of the road. The circular recommended the intermediate carriageway of 5.5 metres tarred surface was adopted for hilly terrain.

A report with signatures of four members of a 26-member committee, including chairperson Rajiv Chopra, an environmentalist and former director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute, recommended the apex court to take the final call on the road width.

The committee suggested an intermediate width of 5.5 metres, citing the MoRTH circular. The MoRTH recommended against ‘double laning and paved shoulders’ in hilly terrain and called for a narrower intermediate road width.

The Supreme Court subsequently set up a high-powered committee August 2019, mandating it to consider the ecological impact of the 900-km project.

Ash dyke breaches in TPPs in Singrauli

An environmental damage estimation report for ash dyke breach incidents at Vidhyachal thermal power plant (TPP) and Essar TPP in Singrauli area in 2019 was filed before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) September 8, 2020. The report was prepared by the committee comprising the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.

In the ash dyke breach incidence at Essar Power MP Ltd August 7, 2019, nearly 50 hectares (ha) of land was affected by the spread of ash slurry. Villagers utilised this area for crop cultivation. The kharif crop in the area was damaged because of the breach.

Based on a field survey and aerial videography, it was revealed the slurry travelled a long path and reached upto the Mayer river confluence after flowing through Jaria and Garra river. The slurry travelled about 11 km in Jaria to Garra to the Mayer’s confluence point.

The ash dyke breach incident — at the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Vindhyachal, Singrauli — occurred October 6, 2019.

The ash slurry spread in the plant premises, but didn’t affect villages, including Gehalgarh, because of their higher elevation. The village Juari was also not affected as it was to the left bank of Surya drain. No agricultural land got affected by the spread of the ash slurry.

The environmental damage assessment due to the ash breach incidence at Essar Power and NTPC Vindhnagar, Singrauli was assessed for greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

The committee assessed environmental damage based on available monitoring reports, field reports and literature. The damage assessment for Essar Power was estimated at Rs 7.3511 crore, while the assessment for NTPC Vindhnagar was estimated to be Rs 104.1684 crore.

The committee, in its report, recommended:

  • Industrial units to comply for full fly-ash utilisation to avoid such incidents in the future
  • Installation of monitoring stations on affected sites to continuously monitor movement of plume underground or leaching of toxic heavy metals from the sediment
  • Industrial units to take care of the health of workers employed for spill clean-up working

Brick kiln

The NGT September 4 directed the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) to assess environmental compensation to be imposed on a brick kiln operating illegally in Purba Medinipur district’s Khamarchak village.

A report filed by the WBPCB informed the tribunal the brick kiln was found to be running without obtaining consent to establish and consent to operate. The order for closure and disconnection of electricity was, thus, issued against the brick kiln. The court said action must be taken to recover environmental compensation for the period of illegal operation, apart from confirming the brick kiln was closed.

Sewage pollution plaguing NH-19

The matter of overflowing sewage on National Highway-19 from Seekri village in Haryana’s Faridabad district was taken up by the NGT September 7. Water from the village was being channelised through the drain alongside the national highway for the past three years, said a report filed by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), citing the block development and panchayat office, Ballabhgarh.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), however, constructed the service road leading to the breaking of the drain. The NHAI assured the construction of a replacement drain between the NH-19 and the service road.

The NHAI said it would connect with four underground pipes under the service road, leading to water of the village being channelised. No new drain, however, was constructed by the NHAI, despite oral assurance. It was further informed that due to waste and polythene in the drain / pipes, water over flowed on to the road and reached NH-19.

As a temporary measure, a kachcha (crude) drain was made by the Gram Panchayat along the service road. Now, water from the drain / pipe did not overflow towards the road and NH-19. This crude drain was being cleaned by the Gram Panchayat from time to time.

As a permanent measure, a plan to construct a permanent drain was prepared by the Gram Panchayat. Demand for funds was sent to the special secretary of Chandigarh’s development and panchayat department. The NGT ordered for further remedial measures to be taken, as it was clear from the HSPCB report that only ad hoc arrangements were made.

The HSPCB was asked to take further steps in coordination with other concerned authorities, including the nagar panchayat and development department and furnish a compliance report before December 11.

Noise pollution in West Bengal

The West Bengal government and the state police must make sure directions passed by the NGT and regulations related to noise pollution control were followed to ensure mitigation of the problem.

These directions were passed by a bench of Justice Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the NGT September 4 in the matter of Subhash Datta vs State of West Bengal and Others.

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