Supreme Court Stays NGT's Order Imposing Rs. 120 Crore Compensation On UP For Untreated Sewage Discharge
On Monday, the Supreme Court stayed the National Green Tribunal's order imposing an environmental compensation of 120 crores rupees on the State of Uttar Pradesh for discharging untreated sewage into the rivers of Gorakhpur District and improper solid waste management.While issuing notice in the appeal challenging NGT's order dated September 13, 2022, the bench comprising Chief Justice...
On Monday, the Supreme Court stayed the National Green Tribunal's order imposing an environmental compensation of 120 crores rupees on the State of Uttar Pradesh for discharging untreated sewage into the rivers of Gorakhpur District and improper solid waste management.
While issuing notice in the appeal challenging NGT's order dated September 13, 2022, the bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y Chandrachud, Justice P.S Narasimha, and Justice J.B Pardiwala passed an order stating, 'Delay condoned', 'Issue notice', and 'In the meantime, the direction of the National Green Tribunal to the State of Uttar Pradesh to deposit an amount of Rs. 120 crores as compensation in a separate ring-fenced account shall remain stayed."
The bench further explained, “We, however, clarify that this shall not be construed as obviating the duty of the State to comply with all other directions and to report compliance to the Tribunal.”
Proceeding Before NGT
In 2014, an application was filed in NGT raising concerns about the contamination of water bodies and groundwater due to the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial effluents, particularly in Ramgarh Lake, Ami, Rapti, and Rohani Rivers in and around Gorakhpur District, Uttar Pradesh.
According to the applicant, contaminated water can lead to the spread of Enterovirus (EV), which can cause brain fever similar to Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Gorakhpur has a history of hundreds of children dying at the BRD Medical College.
In September 2022, the case was decided by the principal bench of NGT comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel(Chairperson), Justice Sudhir Agarwal (Judicial Member), Prof. A Senthil Vel (Expert Member), Dr. Afroz Ahmad (Expert Member).
The bench noted that the steps required to prevent contamination of water bodies and groundwater were not being taken by U.P authorities.
The contamination was affecting the farmers, inhabitants, flora, fauna, and ecology of the area, leading to degradation of the environment. As many as 103 water bodies were under threat, and there was no proper management of solid waste or designated scientific sanitary landfill. Additionally, there was encroachment on the Ramgarh Taal, and a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) had not been set up. The Tribunal noted that industries were not complying with the environmental norms.
NGT noted that “557 persons died in the year 2012. About 50,000 people have died in the last 30 years.”
After hearing the parties and considering the material on record regarding the control of EV, the bench directed the State Authorities to bring experts from the National Institute of Virology, Pune and the National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi on board for programs aimed at preventing and remedying the situation. The bench also directed for an increase and expansion of health surveillance, monitoring, and emergency services throughout the district.
On the issue of control of water pollution the Tribunal found that “From the data presented by the State itself, apart from past violations, continuing violations of discharge of untreated sewage into the drains, rivers and other water bodies is more than 50 MLD.As against reported generation of sewage in Gorakhpur to the extent of about 100 MLD, treatment is not more than 45 MLD.”
Further the Tribunal said,“We have thus to hold the State accountable for such violation atleast to the extent of discharge of 55 MLD in violation of law. Compensation on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle has to be determined for being utilised for restoration.”
In the light of the above the bench decided that, “we determine the liability of State of U.P for discharge of 55 MLD sewage into rivers at Gorakhpur at Rs. 110 Crores. As already noted, water pollution is also one of the sources of EV. Further, for failure to process solid waste,” Following the previous compensation scale, “total compensation is determined at Rs. 120 crores.”
The NGT also constituted a six-member joint committee to plan and execute remedial measures aimed at achieving environmental norms, preferably within six months.
The Tribunal further directed that, “The Committee may meet within one month and update action plan for prevention and remediation of pollution so as to achieve tangible results within six months. Steps will include operationalization of CETPs, interception and diversion of drains to the respective STPs, to be set up and commissioned, maintaining Floodplain zones of rivers, lakes in question and also Ramgarh Tal, preventing encroachment, ensuring plantation and desilting of the Tal and other associated activities.”
Case- State of UP v. Meera Shukla & Ors.