Court Digest: Major environment hearings of the week (May 25-29, 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: Saturday 30 May 2020

Oussudu lake protection

The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on May 26, 2020 directed a committee on Oussudu lake in Puducherry to submit its report on the wetland by August 10. The order came after the committee failed to file its report.

The committee was appointed by the NGT and comprises of:

  • Chief wildlife warden of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
  • Officers from the Wetland Authority of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
  • A senior scientist from the Chennai regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
  • A scientist from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun

The report is supposed to look into the impact withdrawal of water from the lake will have on the wetland and if this can be permitted.

The protection of the water body for the purpose of maintaining biodiversity has to be kept in mind as well. The report also has to consider if any approvals are needed from the chief wildlife warden and the National Board of Wildlife.

Konothupuzha river pollution

The NGT on May 26 accepted a request by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to extend the submission of a report on the Konothupuzha river in Ernakulam district by two months.

The order was a follow-up of an earlier one on January 24 that called for the appointment of a joint committee to look into the matter of how the river was being polluted.

The committee comprises of:

  • Ernakulam district collector
  • Public works department
  • Secretary of the Ernakulam district panchayat
  • Commissioners of respective municipalities
  • Executive officers of the respective Gram Panchayats through which the river flowed

The committee had to come up with a proper action plan with specific timelines to curb pollution in the river. The court also said that if needed, the plan could be extended to other river stretches as well.

LG Polymers lacked experience in monitoring, maintaining styrene

The NGT-appointed joint monitoring committee on the styrene gas leak at an LG Polymers Pvt Ltd chemical plant in RR Venkatapuram village, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh filed its report on May 28.

The committee visited the gas leak site with Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) officials and met industry officials. It conducted a public consultation meeting with non-profits, residents from affected villages and industrialists on May 12.

Justice B Seshasayana Reddy, a former judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court visited the site along with the committee members and APPCB officials and prepared an interim report on May 17, with the consolidated report filed on May 28.

Styrene gas leaked out of an 1,830 tonne tank at the plant early morning May 7. The leaked tank was old and did not have temperature sensors on its middle and top surfaces. Provisions to measure temperature were only at the bottom of the tank where refrigeration was provided for.

The storage tank was stand still because of the lockdown, the report pointed out.

“The styrene polymerises to polystyrene even at ambient temperature, in the absence of inhibitor, which itself is an exothermic reaction with very slow reaction rates,” it said. “Although reaction rates are slower, this will cause major operation issues because of heat liberation and blockages in the tank,” the report added.

The root cause, thus, appeared to be the lack of experience of LG Polymers India and their Korean principal, LG Chem Ltd in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene that were idle for a long period of several weeks.

Further, Tank M6 was old in terms of design, a factor that possibly contributed to the problem, according to the report.

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