Excess wastage of water by use of Reverse Osmosis (RO) process
NGT dealt with the issue of conservation of potable water by preventing its wastage on account of unnecessary use of Reverse Osmosis9RO) systems. It was noted that the use of RO systems results in TDS level below the desirable threshold causing deficiency of calcium and other minerals. Wastage of groundwater by Delhi District Cricket Association in sprinkling RO treated groundwater on cricket ground was also considered by the Tribunal. The Standard of Water Quality Indian Association representing the RO manufacturers stated that although RO ensures availability of pure water, however, it was not disputed that only 20% of the water is recovered and 80% goes waste. The Expert Committee constituted by the Tribunal recommended that RO technology is not required for places having piped water supplies primarily supplied by Municipal corporations from surface water sources like river, lakes and ponds. The absence of scientific disposal of RO reject water upset the disposal medium which may include land and surface water system or sewerage system.
In view of the above, the Tribunal directed Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to issue an appropriate notification prohibiting the use of RO where TDS level is less than 500 mg/l and wherever RO is permitted, requirements be laid down for recovery of water to be more than 60%.The notification must also provide for a mechanism for public awareness about the ill-effects of RO released water on public health and for effective enforcement requiring concerned local bodies to display water quality at regular intervals particularly the concentration component by an appropriate mechanism. It was also directed to enforce Extended Producer Responsibility by the manufacturers for disposal of cartridges and membranes requiring the manufacturers to provide proper labeling on the purifier specifying that the unit should be used only if TDS is more than 500g/l.
(Case: Friends through its General Secretary v. Ministry of Water Resources, Original Application. No. 314/2015, order dated 20.05.2019)
Pollution caused by Diaries
The Tribunal dealt in detail with the issue of non-compliance of environmental norms by dairies operating in Delhi. It was observed that livestock is a major source of methane emissions causing surface temperatures to surge up. The Tribunal directed DPCC to ensure that polluting activities which are without Consent to Operate are stopped by way of prohibitory order and further DPCC cannot shift its onus and responsibility to local bodies and to absolve from its responsibility. Accordingly, the Tribunal directed DPCC to enforce its statutory obligations by closing polluting activities, prosecuting the polluters and recovering compensation in accordance with law and furnish report to the Tribunal. The CPCB was also directed to undertaker study and formulate appropriate guidelines for managing and monitoring of environmental norms by dairies throughout the India and furnish its report to the Tribunal.
(Case: Nuggehalli Jayasimha v. Government of NCT of Delhi, Original Application No. 46/2018, order dated 08.07.2019)
Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016
NGT considered the status of compliance of orders of the Tribunal on the subject of solid waste management. The Tribunal noted that solid waste management is of Paramount importance for protection of environment. The Tribunal accordingly carried out a massive exercise of calling the Chief Secretaries and Administrators of all States and Union Territories to assess the implementation of the Rules in each state with respect to issues such as management of legacy waste, source segregation of waste, door to door collection et all.
In order to achieve the desired result, the Tribunal directed constitution of Central Monitoring Committee comprising representative from NITI Aayog, Ministry of Water Resources, Urban Development Department, MoEF&CC, NMCG and CPCB representing the Central Government and Chief secretaries representing the States/UTs so that a holistic view can be taken on the issue of Municipal Solid Waste management in the nation. Noting the need for an institutionalized training mechanism involving technical, social and environmental issues the Tribunal directed the CPCB to prepare a program for imparting training on the subject to the concerned officials. CPCB was further directed to explore the possibility of preparation of an Annual Environment Plan for the country giving the status of compliance of environmental norms and gaps, if any.
The Tribunal for each State directed its officials to notify and develop three cities, towns and villages in each State as model cities, towns and villages respectively which shall be fully compliant with on environmental norms within one year. The Chief Secretaries were directed to personally monitor the progress with the assistance of District Magistrates. The Tribunal further directed officials to estimate the value of environmental degradation and the cost of restoration and compensation be planned and recovered from the polluters of environmental restoration and restitution on that basis.
(Case:Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016; Original Application No. 606/2018, order dated 18.07.2019)
Menace of Sand Mining
The Tribunal took notice of the remedial action required against illegal sand mining in violation of the directions of Honorable Supreme Court in Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana &Ors. (2012) 4 SCC 629. The Supreme Court had observed that absence of regulation of sand mining was a threat to biodiversity, could destroy riverine vegetation, cause erosion, pollute water sources badly affecting riparian ecology and damaging ecosystem of rivers, safety of bridges, weakening of river beds, destruction of natural habitats of organisms living on the river beds, affect fish breeding and migration and spell disaster for the conservation of bird species and increase saline water in the rivers.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued Sustainable Sand-Mining Management Guidelines 2016, however, it was noticed that the same were not complied with. The Tribunal accordingly considered the issue of revision of Guidelines in the light of directions of the Tribunal and preparation of an effective monitoring mechanism for preventive and remedial measures to be taken in the states of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Telangana where sand mining is more prevalent as compared to the other states.
(Case: National Green Tribunal Bar Association v. Virender Singh, Original Application No. 360/2015, order dated 26.07.2019)
Conservation of Biological Diversity
The issue for consideration before the Tribunal was non compliance of provisions of the Biodiversity Act, 2000 and the Biodiversity Rules, 2004. NGT noted that Biodiversity Management Committees have not been constituted as per Section 41 of the Act and People's Biodiversity Registers have not been maintained as required under Rule 22 (6). PBR helps the State and local community to become aware of the valuable resources being harvested in the area which can be utilised for overall social and economic development of the State. Furthermore PBR also help in conservation of traditional practices and knowledge of local community.
In view of serious non compliance for the last 16 years, the Tribunal directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to evolve mechanism for monthly meeting to be attended by the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Biodiversity Boards, Secretary of Panchayats Environment and Forest starting from September 2019. States were ordered to be held accountable for default and were be required to deposit a sum of Rupees 10 lakhs per month each from 01.01.2020. MoEF&CC was directed to file a compliance report after collecting necessary data from all the States.
(Case: Chandra Bhal Singh v. Union of India &Ors.,Original Application No. 347/2016, order dated 09.08.2019)
Rejuvenation of River Ganga
The matter was taken up by the Tribunal for reviewing the progress and compliance of directions of the Tribunal on preventing and limiting the pollution of River Ganga. The Tribunal observed that prevention of discharge of untreated industrial waste and sewage in River Ganga and its tributaries, installation of STPs and CETPs, installation of continuous emission monitoring system, uses of treated wastewater and sludge manure and setting up of bio-digesters and septage management and preventing dumping of waste what were the primary issues requiring immediate attention.
The Tribunal noted that River Ganga being national river with distinct significance for the country, all the authorities have to be stringent and effect zero tolerance to the pollution of River Ganga. Taking a stern approach, the Tribunal order that the erring industrial units would be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rupees 10 lakhs per month to CPCB for discharging untreated sewage in any drain connected to River Ganga. With regard to sectors where the STP and separation network work hard not started, the State was held liable to pay environmental compensation of Rupees 10 lakhs per month after 31.12.2020. The Tribunal also directed that a suitable tourism policy for permitting hotels and vehicles for such other activities be evolved which are consistent with the carrying capacity to avoid pollution of River Ganga.
(Case: M.C.Mehta v. Union of India &Ors., Original Application No. 200/2014, order dated 22.08.2019)
Functioning of CETPs and Audit of Pollution Control Boards
The question for consideration before the Tribunal was remedial measures against pollution of river Daman Ganga on account of discharge of effluents by industries and CETPs in the Vapi Industrial Cluster. The Tribunal deliberated upon the functioning of CETPs and whether the scheme of CETPs in general calls for review and modification throughout the country. The Tribunal also took note of the lack of awareness and skill at the level of State Pollution Control Boards and whether the regulatory authorities have not performed the duties as per the expectation. The Tribunal constituted independent committee to examine both the issue separately.
The Tribunal directed that action be taken on the subject of corresponding reduction in load to ensure compliance of norms of inlet in CETP so as to ensure that inlet and outlet of CETPs as per norms and file compliance report before the Tribunal.
On the issue of audit of Pollution Control Boards, the Tribunal directed the Performance Audit of PCBs be done with respect to issue such as environmental monitoring, efficacy of regulatory mechanism, staffing both technical and scientific manpower, adequacy of laboratories and scientific equipments, logistic support, complete and etc. rather than ranking the states and state wise reports be submitted along with recommendations based on their analysis in terms of statutory functions before the Tribunal.
(Case: Aryavart Foundation v. M/s. Vapi Green Enviro Ltd. &Ors., Original Application No. 95/2018, order dated 28.08.2019)
The problem of E-waste
The question for consideration before the Tribunal was remedial action against scientific disposal of E-waste which was causing contamination of groundwater and soil acidification.
The Tribunal directed for furnishing the report of review on the performance and working of parameters and methodology developed for compliance of continuous activities of action plan for enforcement of E-waste (Management) Rules 2016. The State Pollution Control Boards were directed to furnish implementation status in respect of checking of informal trading, dismantling and recycling of e-waste collection and disposal of e-waste governance framework for monitoring compliance and capacity building at District, State and CPCB level for enforcement.
(Case: Shailesh Singh v. State of U.P. &Ors., Original Application No. 512/2018 order dated 02.09.2019)
Rainwater Harvesting Systems and Utilization of Treated Water
The Tribunal had taken up the matter in the light of news item dated 19.06.2015 in the Hindustan Times highlighting the problem of water quality on account of contamination of groundwater. The Tribunal noted the need for comprehensive groundwater management and plan for covering Rainwater Harvesting Systems. Accordingly, the Tribunal had constituted a monitoring committee to take stock of the actions and prepare time bound action plan to deal with the problem. The committee considered the status of rainwater harvesting systems in schools and colleges in Delhi and found illegal borewells in many schools and water meters reflecting low consumption of water. The need for sealing of illegal borewells was felt. It was however found that parks and gardens were also having tubewells which were required to be stopped to promote the use of treated water for gardening.
The Tribunal accordingly directed the Delhi Jal Board to ensure that treated wastewater is mandatory utilised and prepare an action plan in consultation with local bodies to ensure that Rainwater Harvesting System are installed in all government buildings, group housing societies, and new buildings where occupancy certificate is yet to be issued. It was further directed that the existing government buildings and group housing societies where rooftop rainwater harvesting system is required to be installed but has not been installed yet may be required to furnish declaration of compliance at a specified web portal up to 31.12.2019.
(Case: News Item Published in "Hindustan Times" dated 19.06.2015 titled "Dirty flows your drinking water" authored by Ritam Haldar; Original Application No. 496/2016, order dated 11.09.2019)
Management of Hazardous Waste
The matter was taken up by NGT due to alarming situation created by generation and scientific dumping of hazardous waste resulting in serious and irreversible damage to the environment and public health. The Tribunal observed large-scale non-compliance of Hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016. Vide its order, the Tribunal constituted a monitoring committee for management of hazardous waste and the committee submitted its recommendations to the Tribunal.
The Tribunal directed CPCB and all SPCBs, CBIC, DGFT, Port Authorities, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Labour and Employment and Department of Labour to comply with the recommendations of the Expert Committee, violation of which would attract environmental compensation to be levied on the defaulting parties. It was further directed to ensure that hazardous waste inventory be updated and verified by way of checks to ensure that the same is credible, reliable and robust in terms of content and scope. 126 sites which were identified as contaminated were directed to be cleared of the hazardous waste within 6 months so that the remediation process may be started. With regard to 195 probable contaminated sites, the Tribunal directed that the assessment may be completed within 6 months and thereafter the waste may be removed within next 6 months from sites. The Tribunal directed that clearance of site by way of disposal of transfer should be strictly as per the HOWM Rules.
(Case: Rajiv Narayan &Anr. v. Union of India &Ors., Original Application No. 804/2017, order dated 26.09.2019)
Illegal Extraction of Groundwater
The Tribunal considered the issue of contamination of groundwater and illegal extraction of ground water in the areas which are declared to be over exploited, critical exploited and semi critically exploited by Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). The Tribunal noted the survey stating that globally, 25% of total annual ground water is extracted in India and depletion level is going up continuously. Depletion of groundwater not only creates crisis of drinking water in absence of inadequate surface water being available in certain areas where there may be drought conditions, but also affects e-flow in rivers and can also increase salinity in soil.
Noting the grim situation, the Tribunal constituted an Expert Committee to look into the steps required to be taken for preventing depletion of groundwater, developing a robust monitoring mechanism to ensure that groundwater is not extracted unauthorizedly and to monitor the conditions laid down for grant of permission for extraction of groundwater. The Tribunal further directed that since the over exploited areas have been found to be seriously affected by overdrawal of groundwater, regulation of such level for commercial purposes cannot be dispensed with for any industry even in industrial area as availability of water for drinking is first priority.
(Case: Shailesh Singh v. Hotel Holiday Regency, Moradabad &Ors.,Original Application No. 176/ 2015, order dated 10.10.2019)
Stubble Burning and consequent Air Pollution
Remedial action to prevent crop burning resulting in air pollution particularly in the NCR region has been subject matter of consideration before the NGT for the last more than 6 years. The Tribunal noted with dismay that the steps taken were inadequate and did not provide for ground checking and vigilance and extinguishing of illegal fires. Preventive remedies of communicating with the farmers the disadvantages of burning were also found unsatisfactory and ineffective. The Tribunal noted that there was no effective incentive mechanism. Accordingly the Tribunal directed the Central Government as well as the States to place on the respective websites the date of fire incidents, responsible officers for the subject for the entire area and action taken for failures on a daily basis to continuously monitor the situation.
(Case: Smt. Ganga Lalwani v. Union of India &Ors., Original Application No. 666/2018, order dated 15.10.2019)
On the issue of Noise Pollution
The subject matter for consideration before the Tribunal was the failure of statutory authorities in Delhi in controlling noise pollution as per the mandate of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. The grievance of the applicants was that despite the orders of the Tribunal, unsatisfactory state of affairs continued.
The Tribunal observed with dismay that despite specific directions, requisite equipments for sound monitoring were not procured, monitoring stations were not set up, no satisfactory data about the action taken against by authorities was prepared by the statutory authorities entrusted with the enforcement of law. Accordingly, taking cognizance of report of CPCB that compensation be imposed for violation by using equipments assessed at 10-25% cost of such equipment, the Tribunal directed CPCB to lay down stringent compensation for tampering with sound limiters also in order to ensure that the same is not resorted to and to revise the compensation for bursting of crackers for different classes of defaulters. The Tribunal also directed that a dedicated telephone line with recording facility and a dedicated online grievance redressal portal for redressal of noise pollution related grievance be developed by Delhi Police and public awareness in this regard be created.
(Case: Hardeep Singh &Ors. v. SDMC &Ors., Original Application No. 519/2016, order dated 20.11.2019)
Air Pollution in Non- Attainment Cities
NGT dealt with the subject of remedial measures to be adopted to enforce the Ambient Air Quality Standards with reference to provisions of the Air Act and Environment Protection Act in cities classified as non-attainment cities based on monitoring of ambient air quality.
The Tribunal observed that the major problem was remediation of legacy waste dump sites in the country, releasing emissions in the ambient air and also causing incidents of fire, further polluting the environment. Accordingly, the Tribunal directed bio-remediation of such dump sites. The Tribunal also directed development of Emergency Response System to be placed in public domain.
The Tribunal directed for installation of Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations within one year which would monitor the air quality on all 12 notified parameters under the Air Act. On default it was directed that the State Pollution Control Boards would be liable to pay compensation at Rupees 5 lakhs per month starting from 01.01.2021.
(Case: News item published in "The Times of India" authored by Shri Vishwa Mohan titled "NCAP with multiple timelines to clean air in 102 cities to be released around August 15", Original Application No. 681/2018; order dated 20.11.2019)
Coastal Water Pollution
The Tribunal dealt with the issue of formulating an Action Plan to restore coastal water quality along the Indian coastal areas. Reliance was placed on report of CPCB "Classification of Indian Coastal and Conflicts" referring to marine pollution by sewage and other discharge in violation of environmental laws. It was observed that coastal areas are critically polluted on account of dumping of sewage and waste. Over 80% of marine pollution is from land-based sources- industrial, agricultural and urban.
The Tribunal noted that report of CPCB is incomplete about the status of compliance with regard to norms of pollution laws in all the coastal areas, particularly with regard to discharge of untreated industrial and Municipal effluents and solid waste. Accordingly, the Tribunal directed CPCB to submit a comprehensive Status Report with regard to coastal pollution by way of classification of coastal areas into priorities I- V. In view of lack of accurate and scientific data, the Tribunal directed all the State Pollution Control Boards of coastal States/UTs to provide relevant information to CPCB when then 1 month failing which they would be liable to pay Rupees 10 lakhs per month till compliance.
(Case: Lt. Col. Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi v. Union of India &Ors.,Original Application No. 829/2019, order dated 03.12.2019)
Compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules at Railway Stations
The Tribunal considered the issue of non-compliance of Plastics Waste and Solid Waste Management Rules, preventing discharge of effluents, management of water at Railway Stations, compartments and tracks and removal of encroachments causing environment degradation. The Tribunal had earlier directed preparation of remedial Action Plan by 30.11.2018 to be notified on website for comments of general public and be finalized before 31.03.2019. The CAG was directed to conduct Performance Audit on or before 30.06.2019 on the issue of solid waste, plastic waste and open defecation along railway tracks.
The Tribunal while reviewing the compliance of the orders directed the CPCB to take into account the process of implementation of Action Plans of Railways for all major stations and evaluate the same and file compliance report with regard to compliance of Section 25 of the Water Act and Section 21 of the Air Act of such railway stations before 31.03.2020.
(Case: Saloni Singh & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors., Original Application No. 141/2014, order dated 12.12.2019)
Remedial action for 351 polluted river stretches in India
The proceedings for cleaning of 351 polluted river stretches were initiated on the basis of a news item in 'The Hindu' under the heading "More river stretches are now critically polluted" authored by Jacob Koshy which stated that 351 polluted river stretches have been identified by the Central Pollution Control Board as being critically polluted. The Tribunal had earlier passed directions for preparation for Action Plans for restoration and rejuvenation of the polluted river stretches.
The Tribunal while reviewing the progress directed that all steps proposed in the Action Plans including completion of setting up of STPs and their commissioning be done till 31.03.2021, in default of which compensation assessed at Rs. 10 lakhs per month per STP would be payable. The Tribunal further directed that monitoring may be done by the Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs at the State Level and by Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti with the assistance of NMCG and CPCB.
(Case: News item published in "The Hindu"authored by Shri Jacob Koshy titled "More River Stretches are now critically polluted :CPCB"Original Application No. 673/2018, order dated 06.12.2019)
Plastic Waste Management
The Tribunal vide its order considered the issue of implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 and directions issued by CPCB to implement the thickness norms for carry bags, constitution of squads for vigilance, preventing littering of plastic waste in public places, submission of Annual Reports and Action Plan for management and quantification and characterization and every city and town of all states.
The Tribunal ordered that national framework for Extended Producers Liability be finalized and enforced within 3 months and report be furnished by the MoEF&CC to the Tribunal. CPCB was also directed to give its report for compensation regime. The Tribunal additionally directed for preparation of an institutional mechanism to ensure that no unregistered plastic manufacturing recycling unit is in operation and no plastic bag of less than 50 microns thickness be manufactured, stocked and sold and used in the cities, special environment squads be set up to oversee that no littering of plastic waste takes place at historical religious and public places and no burning of plastic waste takes place in the open. The States have been directed to submit their compliance report filling which compensation of Rupees 10 Lakhs per quarter shall be levied by the CPCB.
(Case: Central Pollution Control Board v. State of Andaman & Nicobar &Ors., Execution Application No. 13/2019, order dated 06.12.2019)
Pollution in Lakes
The NGT considered the issue of contamination of Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes at Bengaluru on account of discharge of untreated sewage and other effluents from residential/commercial/industrial buildings in violation of statutory provisions of the Water Act, 1974, particularly Section 25.
The NGT noticed that the current situation was that sewage continued to be discharged into the lake with no plan of even immediate interim preventive measures. There was large scale breach of public duties by concerned Authorities dealing with the subject. Illegality may not continue on account of default or negligence of the Authorities. Accordingly, a Monitoring Committee was set up to review the progress as per the order and directions of the Tribunal till 31.03.2020)
(Case: Court on its own Motion v. State of Karnataka, Original Application No. 125/2017; order dated 18.12.2019)
Enforcement of environmental norms in running restaurants/ hotels/ motels/ banquets etc.
The Tribunal noted the violation of law on the subjects of solid waste management, discharge of effluents, illegal ground water extraction, ground water contamination, emission by illegally operating diesel generators, absence of statutory consents under the Air and Water Act and violation of conditions of consent wherever such consent had been granted, by the restaurants/hotels/motels/banquets in Mahipalpur and Rajokri areas in Delhi. The Tribunal also considered the issue of absence of Rain Water Harvesting System, excess noise pollution, illegal parking and encroachments.
The Tribunal in view of Guidelines prepared by CPCB covering requirement of monitoring mechanism, Action Plan suggested by Urban Development Department for compiling data of functions held on installation of CCTV cameras, GPS system in garbage collection vans, regulating sides of gatherings as per the capacity of areas, fire safety devices steps, control traffic congestion inter alia directed that enforcing the requirement of Consent to Establish should be the starting point for commission of the project rather than last in the governance chain. The project proponent at such areas must file their Annual Environment Statement in terms of Rule 14 of the EP Rules. The Tribunal for the director that stringent norms be worked out for controlling and regulating parking of vehicles used by organisms and guests in functions as well as parking of vehicles generally on roads and public spaces at into air pollution. It was further held that use of DG systems must be fitted with noise limiters and data loggers and be operated within soundproof halls within prescribed noise limit without its effect be felt outside. The Tribunal clarified that the owner of the property will be liable for any default.
(Case: Westend Green Farms Society v. Union of India &Ors, Original Application No. 400/2017, order dated 20.12.2019)
Ranu Purohit, Advocate at Supreme Court of India and Environment enthusiast.