National Green Tribunal makes Delhi government forfeit a performance guarantee of Rs. 5 crore for not meaningfully complying with its Order on regulating banquet halls and restaurants that violate multiple environment laws and guidelines.
In its Order dated 08.03.2019, the Tribunal had observed that marriage halls were allowed to operate without safeguards for the protection of the environment, including air, water and soil. This resulted in violation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, illegal drawl of groundwater, violation of Master Plan and non-compliance of statutory regulatory norms on 'Precautionary' principle and 'Polluter Pays' principle of environment. Therefore, it had directed the joint committee of concerned departments to address the following issues:
1. Compilation of data of all such places where marriages and functions take place which should be published and appropriately regulated.
2. Regulate noise level at above places as per laid down norms. This includes regulation of DJ sets, loudspeakers and crackers etc.
3. Compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and sewage discharge including decentralized waste processing facilities, installation of CCTV camera, GPS system in garbage collection vans etc.
4. Regulation of extraction of groundwater as per applicable guidelines, sealing of tube wells including those installed for swimming pools in violation of law, need for reuse of water for flushing, Plantation or gardening.
5. Prohibiting such activities in overcrowded places not having adequate parking or other facilities.
6. Action against unauthorized construction or unauthorized use without statutory clearances prohibiting and stopping any existing or future activities non-complying with above norms and also taking penal action wherever necessary.
7. Environment restoration and compensating victims of violation
8. of law in relation to Noise Pollution, Air Pollution, Water Pollution, Master Plan, etc.
The Tribunal noted that the report filed by the Delhi government does not properly address the issues in terms of the order of the Tribunal. The report is marred by data insufficiency and instances of lack of regulatory compliance. There is no Impact Assessment study with a view to give effect to precautionary and sustainable development principles. The Tribunal had also directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to draw up an action plan and guidelines applicable on Pan India basis and to file its report, however, the Ministry could not make an appearance on the designated date.
Highlighting the gravity of the problem, the Tribunal noted that the policy for enforcement of Environment norms for places in a densely populated city like Delhi where social gathering takes place, is necessary on account of there already being high level of air pollution. Such gatherings should not result in further deterioration of the situation. The Policy making on such vital issue is expected to be in the light of Expert Studies based on air and water samples of the area, and with the involvement of experts in environment, urban planning or other relevant subjects. This cannot be a casual exercise as happened in the present case.
Delhi Government is granted more time to take remedial action. However, the Tribunal very categorically declared that if there is a further failure, the Tribunal may consider appropriate coercive measures.