As villagers along river Kali in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district continue to suffer loss of lives and health due to dumping of garbage in a huge pit dug up along the river bank, the National Green Tribunal has warned the head of local civic agency to take remedial steps forthwith or face prosecution including civil imprisonment besides immediately coughing up Rs 24 lakh as environmental compensation.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson A K Goel, Member Justice S.P. Wangdi, K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr. Nagin Nanda directed "Nagar Nigam, Meerut to forthwith take remedial steps to comply with the law failing which there will be no other option except to direct prosecution of the Commissioner, Nagar Nigam, Meerut and take other steps, including a civil imprisonment, in execution of this order."
The bench took note of the inspection report submitted by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board in compliance of its orders.
The report stated that "Municipal Solid Waste has been dumped in Kachha Pit by digging of soil. The dumping of Waste in this manner leads to the possibility of contaminating of the groundwater of nearby area and pollute the river kali east from the leachate due to rainwater. There is no arrangement for leachate collection and treatment of leachate".
The Tribunal noted, "it is clear that the Nagar Nigam, Meerut has failed to perform its statutory duties and is responsible for damage to the environment and to the public health. We are informed that the UPPCB has required the Nagar Nigam, Meerut to pay a sum of Rs. 24 lakhs as compensation for damage to the environment".
The bench was hearing a petition moved by Naveen Kumar, a community worker and Vishal Kumar, a farmer from Meerut's Ganwri village where the dumping site is located along river Kali.
Their counsel and environmental activist Akash Vashishtha had informed the bench that they had moved the Tribunal in January but there has been no change on the ground.
Till January, garbage dumping by Meerut Nagar Nigam had claimed 22 human lives and made the local population in nearby villages generally unwell with recurrent diarrhoea, asthma, skin disorders, leprosy and other deadly diseases besides contaminating ground water.
Vashishtha also contented that with rains about to hit the region, like every year for the past eight years leachate would flow into the river and further pollute the groundwater table.
The Bench has now directed Commissioner, Nagar Nigam, Meerut to remain present in person along with the compliance report on the next date i.e. September 16.
The NGT was disturbed to note from the UPPCB inspection that the dump site was being operated in violation of conditions of environmental clearance and in abject defiance of Solid Waste Management Rules.
The Board said dumping of waste was leading to possibility of contamination of groundwater and there was no arrangement for leachate collection, no machinery installed for handling of solid waste which was not even being segregated.
Notices were issued to the Meerut Nagar Nigam by UPPCB, Lucknow and also by its regional office in Meerut regarding the complaint of habitants of village Jalauddin Masoodpur, Gawadi against dumping of solid waste but the Nagar Nigam did not care to respond.