The National Green Tribunal Principal Bench recently ordered the Central Pollution Control Board to provide a report and lay down appropriate guidelines for the management and monitoring of environmental norms by dairies in India by undertaking a study in that matter.
The Tribunal was hearing a matter concerning the generation and disposal of solid, liquid and gas waste carried on by diary industries which lead not only to the pollution of river Yamuna but also the contamination of the surrounding soil and air along with several other health hazards. In an earlier order, of April, 2019, the contention of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) that such matter did not fall within its area of concern had been rejected by the Tribunal in view of the Committee's obligations under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act), 1981. Holding it accountable under these two acts along with the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the DPCC, had been asked to prosecute the polluters and recovering compensation for restoration of the environment from them. Moreover, the South and North Delhi Municipal Corporations had also been asked to pay Rs. 10 lakhs each as performance guarantees to the Central Pollution Control Board for taking necessary steps within three months for restoration of the environment. The Chief Secretary, Delhi was asked to furnish an action taken report.
In pursuance of that order, an action taken report had been filed before the tribunal in 3rd July, 2019 wherein it was stated that the DPCC had imposed compensation on Municipal Corporations apart from the concerned diaries. Responsibility had been given to District Magistrates for sealing bore-wells and Flood Control Department, Animal Husbandry Department were along with Delhi society were to take proper steps.
While passing the order in the instant case, the tribunal noted that in spite of observations in the earlier order as well as repeated orders in large number of cases, the DPCC seemed to be avoiding its statutory responsibilities under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and, to cover up their inaction, was passing the order of imposition of fines on other statutory bodies, without any jurisdiction since their counsel had failed to show any legal authority for doing so. The Tribunal further observed that while the DPCC may take action on 'Polluter Pays' principle against polluting activities of any statutory body, it has no authority to recover compensation for alleged inaction by such statutory authorities. The DPCC itself and not these authorities were authorized to enforce the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 or Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Hence it could not avoid its obligations under these two acts even if it has overlapping powers under other statutes. The Court noted that Just as local bodies cannot fine DPCC for its utter failure, DPCC also cannot shift its onus and responsibility to local bodies and absolve from its responsibility.
Disapproving the illegal actions of the DPCC in imposing environmental compensations on Municipal Corporations the court urged the DPCC to enforce its statutory obligations in accordance with law and furnish another report.
The Tribunal further noted that livestock being a major source of methane emissions, no guidelines existed for management and rearing of livestock despite the dairy industry being covered by 'Orange category' under a circular issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in 5th March 2016. Emphasizing the need to expand the scope of remedying the compliance of environmental norms by dairies for the whole country, the Tribunal ordered the CPCB to undertake a study in the mater and lay down appropriate guidelines for management and monitoring of environmental norms by dairies throughout India and furnish a report on the same before the next date. Local bodies in all the States/ UTs were directed to file an inventory of dairies in their respective jurisdiction so that state PCB can compile such information in their respective reports furnished to CPCB.
Finally, The court ordered for the forfeiture of the performance guarantee in pursuance of the previous order of April 2019 on account of its failure by the concerned authorities and also stated that it may consider further coercive measures if the failure continued on the next date. The matter was thus disposed off.