Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (December 20, 2022)

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 20 December 2022
Down To Earth brings you top environmental cases heard in Supreme Court, high courts & National Green Tribunal

Radiation not a pollutant: DPCC

There are no environmental standards and norms prescribed for radiation from mobile towers under environmental laws, autonomous regulatory body Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) stated in its report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) December 19, 2022.

The matter of radiation from mobile towers does not fall in the ambit of the Environment Act, 1986, it added. The response came over the installation of telecom towers in Delhi Development Authority (DDA) parks at nine locations in Pitampura, Delhi.

Electromagnetic radiations “from a mobile tower below the safe limit prescribed by non-profit International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and recommended by the World Health Organization have no convincing scientific evidence of causing adverse health effects,” said a letter by the Department of Telecommunications.

The department under the Union Ministry of Communication wrote the letter March 10, 2021.

“Keeping the precautionary Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) safe exposure limits for the radio frequency field as 1/10th of the safe limits prescribed by ICNIRP for all areas in India eliminates the need for fixing lower for specific areas like schools, hospitals, residential premises, children playgrounds; a segregation of which is impractical in densely populated localities,” the letter had added.

Radiation is not covered under the provisions of the Acts and thus not a pollutant according to the awareness note on mobile tower radiation and its impacts on the environment as published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Air Act, 1981 and the Environment Act, 1986, the DPCC further submitted to NGT. 

Thus, the only issue of direct concern is the noise and air emission control from the diesel generator (DG) sets attached to the mobile tower if any. Mobile tower companies in the national capital are not installing DG sets in the mobile tower currently. 

“There is no clarity yet as to whether mobile towers actually cause harm to human health and environment,” the pollution control authority added.  

Be it the guidelines issued by the CPCB or the various orders passed by the Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal and High Courts, it is yet to be decided as to whether there is any impact of mobile radiation on human health and environment, DPCC further said.

The awareness note published by CPCB does not mention that mobile tower radiations in India cause any harm to human health, it added.

Septage management in Delhi

There are no specific areas for the collection of septage tanks earmarked to the vendors, a joint committee looking into septage management in the national capital said in an interim progress report submitted to the NGT December 17, 2022. 

Vendors can collect septic waste from any place throughout Delhi, it added.

Delhi Jal Board (DJB) should make an assessment as to how many vehicles/tankers are required for disposal of septic waste to properly control vendors’ compliance with conditions of the Septage Management Regulation, the joint panel suggested. 

The number of vehicles/tankers required will depend on the number of households having septic tanks and the quantity of septic waste generated in that district.

A sufficient number of authorised vendors/tankers be deployed in an area considering the requirement of that district, the interim report added. The committee was constituted by NGT April 22, 2022 and chaired by Justice S P Garg.

The DJB should constitute a district-wise task force for taking action against the unauthorised septage dumping and also for monitoring the activities of authorised vendors, the panel further said.

There is an urgent need for early development of a centralised monitoring system/GPS for tracking the performance of licensed vehicles, it also stated.

The municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) should ensure that owners and occupiers of buildings in unauthorised colonies and areas without sewers discharge their septage only through the licensee vendors of DJB, the report said.

Illegal mining in Banda

The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of Uttar Pradesh should consider amending and reviewing the environmental clearances issued to mining projects, stated a joint inspection report constituted by the orders of the NGT. 

The shallow ground water table reported in the hills of village Nahri and Khalari, district Banda had prompted the inspection committee to make the statement December 15, 2022. 

Residential and agricultural areas are also located close to the area, the report said. The mining projects have no approach road and the kaccha village road is not adequately wide.

The reclamation was not done according to the mining completion plan in the previous lease, it added.

The committee along with the applicant, Rajjan Pandey, visited all the mining areas in question November 15, 2022. A drone survey of the mining lease was also conducted on the same day under the supervision of the joint committee.

A representative of the mining leaseholders informed the committee during the drone survey that they are constantly mining the materials throughout the year. 

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