Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (May 19, 2023)

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: Monday 22 May 2023
Down To Earth brings you top environmental cases heard in Supreme Court, high courts & National Green Tribunal

No mining in Son river

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), May 19, 2023 directed no further mining in the Son river bed in district Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh until further action to protect the river and the animals in the area. 

The district magistrate, Sonbhadra and the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) should ensure compliance with this direction, the judgment said. The remedial and appropriate actions necessary should be taken within three months, the NGT said. 

The court also directed Sudhakar Pandey and the mining company New India Minerals to pay environmental compensation of Rs 8.16 crore and Rs 7.08 crore, respectively, to the UPPCB for illegal mining.

The tribunal also asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests for UP and Bihar and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India (MoEF&CC) to consider declaring part of the river running through the states as a wildlife sanctuary and eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) for the protection of gharials. 

A joint committee must be constituted for re-visiting all mining leases granted for mining activities in the Son river bed. The panel must check that the mining activities are not degrading, damaging the river stream itself and harming the protected animals like gharials, turtles and tortoises.

The environmental clearances, consent to operate and no objection certificates granted to Sudhakar Pandey and New India Minerals for mining activities in the Son river bed have to be re-visited by State Environment Impact Assessment Authority UP, UPPCB and other authorities concerned, the NGT said.

Appropriate decisions are needed for leased areas surrounded by reserved forest, ESZ and sanctuaries to see if mining activities should be allowed to continue. Till such a decision is taken, no further mining would be allowed, the order added.

Free flow of drains obstructed by ACC Ltd

The NGT directed cement manufacturer Associated Cement Companies (ACC) Ltd to ensure no blocking of the free flow of drains near its project site in Salai Banwa village, district Sonbhadra, UP.

The project proponent (ACC) assured the court it would not undertake any activity obstructing the drains in question. The boundary wall and hume pipes will be removed and plantation be done on either side of the drains before proceeding with the project.

The joint committee report showed violations in the railway siding area, of which the railway is the owner, the NGT pointed out. Coal dumping was obstructing the drain flow, violating environmental norms. The railways are responsible for preventing and remedying such violations. 

The UPPCB has been directed to take further action against the railway administration and file an affidavit of compliance within two months.

The joint committee’s report dated May 13, 2023 said two naturally flowing drains are passing through the project site of ACC Cement. The PP has placed hume pipes to pass the nullah through the boundary wall constructed by the unit.

“A huge amount of coal was found unscientifically dumped near the railway siding area and the station superintendent does not have any related records regarding the amount of coal dumped in that area and its ownership,” the panel report said.

The dumped coal has blocked the way of these naturally flowing drains. Though these drains are dry at present, this activity can adversely impact the flow and quality of water during the rainy season, the report added. 

Constructions in Kumbhalgarh Wild Life Sanctuary, Rajasthan

The NGT directed the district collector, Pali in Rajasthan and the superintendent of police, Pali to take appropriate steps to ensure that no raising of construction takes place in village Sadri situated within the ESZ of Kumbhalgarh Wild Life Sanctuary (KWLS). 

The chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan and divisional commissioner office were also asked to file their response on the matter.

MoEF&CC informed the court the Rajasthan government issued a draft notification for the declaration of ESZ of KWLS. However, the declaration was not finalised and has lapsed. The MoEF&CC issued several letters to the government, but no action was taken, the ministry said.

Counsel for the applicants submitted the state government has, vide order May 13, 2016, prohibited mining, commercial activities and change of land use within a kilometre of KWLS. Such permissions were granted to two respondents named in the order and are not valid, the application added.

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