Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (May 18-22, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal through the week

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 25 May 2020

Approach NGT on committees: SC to LG Polymers

The Supreme Court (SC) on May 19, 2020 directed LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the issue of multiple committees that were set up to probe the gas leak incident at the LG Polymer plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.

The counsel representing the industry said the matter was already being looked into by a committee appointed in pursuance with an Andhra Pradesh High Court order and that “there was no occasion for the NGT to appoint another committee.”

COVID-19 waste

The NGT on May 18 directed West Bengal’s chief secretary to look into alleged indiscriminate dumping of biomedical waste generated by from home quarantining of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in open dumping grounds across the state. 

The NGT asked the chief secretary to take “tangible and urgent steps to implement the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines on COVID-19 waste”. The chief secretary — along with the concerned departments and the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) — was asked to submit a report.

The tribunal also directed the SPCB to file a separate report dealing with the implementation of the guidelines and specific information over the manner with which biomedical waste was being disposed of. Both reports have to be submitted by July 8.

Use of treated sewage

The CPCB in a report on May 18 recommended directing states and Union territories (UTs) to implement an action plan for utilisation of treated sewage by 2023.

The states should also be directed to estimate the quantity of sewage generated and provide adequate treatment capacity, a primary requirement for preparation of an action plan for treated sewage, the report said.

The identification of more bulk users and industrial usage diversification was also recommended by the report.

The CPCB — in recommendations to the NGT — called for the imposition of Rs 1 lakh per month as environmental compensation from December 1, 2019 till date on the below states / UTs for their failure to provide either no information or partial information:

  • Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh for failing to submit any information.
  • Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha and West Bengal submitted limited information in their action plans
  • Karnataka (Bengaluru), Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram) and Telangana (Hyderabad) only submitted city-specific action plans. Action plans for treated sewage reuse in states were not provided.
  • Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Sikkim and Tripura cited local terrain and technical issues for not being able to plan use of treated sewage.

Dairy farms and gaushalas

Local bodies / SPCBs / Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) / Gram Panchayats in states / UTs should ensure all operational dairies and gaushalas follow the “Guidelines for Environmental Management of Dairy Farms and Gaushalas”, according to a CPCB report filed before the NGT on May 18, 2020.

Dairy farms and gaushalas with animal populations of 10 and above should obtain consent to establish and consent to operate under the Water Act, 1974 and the Air Act, 1981 from the concerned SPCBs / PCCs, the report, said.

The report also recommended all local authorities / corporations should have inventories of all the dairy farms and gaushalas located in their jurisdiction in a prescribed format. This information should be updated and shared with the concerned SPCB / PCC on an annual basis.

In general, the methods used in states / UTs for disposal / utilisation of cattle dung include using dung as manure in fields, vermicomposting, biogas generation, fish feed and fuel for cremation.

SPCBs / PCCs did not provide information on disposal / utilisation of wastewater. Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Mizoram, however, said wastewater was being used for fodder cultivation.

Industrial compliance of environmental standards

The CPCB filed a report on the compliance status of all industries generating trade effluent and requiring effluent treatment plants (ETPs) as reported by SPCBs / PCCs.

The report also included the river basin-wise status of industrial units generating trade effluent and of common effluent treatment plants (CETPs).

The May 2020 report stated that according to data received from SPCBs / PCCs, out of a total 65,135 industries requiring ETPs, 63,108 were operating with functional ETPs and 2,027 were operating without ETPs.

Showcause notices and closure directions were issued to 968 and 881 industries respectively for operating without ETPs.

Legal cases were filed against seven industries and action was under process against 269 industries. Out of 63,108 operational industries, 61,346 complied with environmental standards, while 1,616 did not.

CPCB told the NGT that formats were finalised for the collection of information from the concerned SPCBs / PCCs for the preparation of a river basin-wise macro picture related to ETPs and CETPs.

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