NGT orders closure of 69 industrial areas

Continued polluting activities are criminal offences under the law of the land, the tribunal said in its order

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 17 July 2019
An industrial unit near Pune. Photo: Getty Images

The National Green Tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi on July 10 ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), along with the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) to close 69 Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs).  

The tribunal has taken up suo moto cognisance of the issue of pollution by industrial clusters.

In the 21-page order, the tribunal noted that the CPCB along with SPCBs in 2009-10 had identified 88 industrial clusters as PIAs. These were further classified as Critically Polluted Areas (CPAs), Severely Polluted Areas (SPAs) and Other Polluted Areas (OPAs).

This categorisation was done on the basis of the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) which gives scores to industrial clusters based on the nature of pollutants, ambient pollutant concentrations, receptors (number of people affected) and additional high-risk elements.  

The industrial clusters whose CEPI score was more than 70 have been categorised as CPAs, those whose index is between 60-70 as SPAs and those below 60 as OPAs.  

The CEPI was amended by CPCB in 2016 to include variables like scale of industrial activity, scale of exceedance of environmental quality (level of exposure), health-related statistics and compliance status of industries.

It also asked states to undertake continuous environmental quality monitoring in all CPAs and SPAs and put the data in the public domain.

The tribunal observed that while in 2009, there were 88 PIAs, this figure increased to 100 in 2016.

The tribunal also observed that it had passed several orders earlier in 2018 and 2019, but the “question for consideration is whether mere making of action plans obviates the requirement of enforcing the law.

“Continued polluting activities are criminal offences under the law of the land. The rule of law requires prohibiting such activities to safeguard the environment and the innocent victims.”  

“The statutory regulatory bodies can be required to straightaway identify the particular industrial units in the said PIAs that are causing pollution, particularly those units which fall under the red and orange category and take action against them by way of closing the polluting activity, initiating prosecution and assessing and recovering compensation,” the tribunal ordered.        

It has asked the CPCB, in coordination with the SPCBs, to carry out the order and submit a report within three months. The polluting units will also have to pay compensation for the period of last five years under the polluter pays principle.

Additionally, the tribunal said no activity or expansion will be allowed in these industrial clusters until these areas are brought within the prescribed parameters of environmental norms.

“The tribunal has given its order. Now, it is up to the industries. They could appeal against it,” Pradeep Mishra, advocate for Delhi Pollution Control Board said.

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