The Principal Bench of NGT has imposed a cost of 5 crores on Mumbai Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) for causing pollution, by discharging industrial effluents, in the Taloja industrial area on the outskirts of Mumbai.
The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Arvind Pundalik Mhatre, for action against the alleged discharge of untreated industrial effluents in a water body nearby the residential areas, damaging the eco system and health of the inhabitants.
On inspection of records, the allegations against the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) Operator were confirmed. The Principal Bench directed the CETP Operator to pay compensation of Rs. 10 crores to the affected area's District Magistrate, for polluting the water body.
After repeated failures on the part of regulatory authorities and the CETP operators to stop the discharge of effluents, a Monitoring Committee headed by Justice V.M. Kanade was appointed to propose a time bound action plan. The report submitted by the Committee proposed steps to upgrade the CETP.
The operation of the CETP was taken over by the MIDC in November 2018. Even after the take-over, when the pollution did not stop, the NGT Bench had directed closure of the polluting industries in the area, until some remedial action was taken. The Mumbai Pollution Control Board (MPCB) was directed to suspend 'consent to operate' of the industries not meeting the norms, till effective measures were taken by them to curb the pollution.
When the matter was next heard in july, 2019, the report submitted by the MPCB and MIDC showed that due to non-completion work of the upgradation of CETP, the pollution did not stop. On perusal of the reports submitted, the Principal Bench found that outstanding compensation amounting of Rs. 3.90 Crores had still not been deposited by the Corporation.
The NGT Principal Bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson, was of the view that, the MIDC's failure in stopping the discharge of effluents beyond norms, was a criminal offence under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The Bench also observed that both MIDC and MPCB had been violating the law. MIDC was also seen to be violating the orders of the NGT by discharging effluents beyond norms and not paying the compensation due.
The Bench rebuked the Deputy CEO (Environment), MIDC as well as Member Secretary, MPCB and was even inclined to order their civil imprisonment. However, taking a "liberal view", the Principal Bench directed them to deposit the outstanding compensation, as well as stopping of the discharge of polluting effluents.
The Tribunal proceeded to impose a further cost of Rs. 5 crore to be paid by MIDC by way of compensation, and directed that the salaries of CEO, MIDC, Deputy CEO (Environment), MIDC and Member Secretary, MPCB be stopped till compliance was made with previous orders.
The MIDC and MPCB have been given time till 15th Oct 2019 to submit a 'further action taken' report. The Monitoring Committee set up by the Bombay HC was directed to file its final report before 15.10.2019.
The matter will be heard next on 4th November 2019.TO DOWNLOAD THE ORDER, CLICK HERE.