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The National Green Tribuna (NGT)l- Yearly Round Up 2021

Ranu Purohit
9 Jan 2022 12:17 PM GMT
The National Green Tribuna (NGT)l- Yearly Round Up 2021

Scientific Disposal of Bio-Medical Waste arising out of COVID-19 treatment The issue for consideration in this matter was the remedial action to address the gaps in compliance of the BMW Rules, 2016, as applicable to the disposal of bio-medical waste arising out of handling of COVID-19 disease, so as to ensure protection of environment and public health, in view of potential...

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Scientific Disposal of Bio-Medical Waste arising out of COVID-19 treatment

The issue for consideration in this matter was the remedial action to address the gaps in compliance of the BMW Rules, 2016, as applicable to the disposal of bio-medical waste arising out of handling of COVID-19 disease, so as to ensure protection of environment and public health, in view of potential of such infectious waste adversely affecting public health, concerned workers and professionals etc.

Disposal of COVID-19 waste in general bins so as to be part of municipal waste or unscientific handling sewage and other liquid waste without safeguards can be hazardous. Need was felt to incorporate best practices apart from continued supervision and monitoring, compiling data in an online format, use of electronic /digital manifest system to track and log COVID-19 waste from all sources, preventing its accidental spillage, analyzing the data for strategic planning and the feedback by creating necessary software, to the extent viable.

The Tribunal got guidelines prepared by the CPCB for scientific disposal of covid related waste and issued directions to the Chief Secretary of States/UTs to ensure implementation of these guidelines.

At the national level, a high level task team of Ministry of MoEF&CC, Health UD, Jal Shakti, Defence and CPCB was constituted to supervise the handling and scientific disposal of COVID-19 waste in accordance with the guidelines. State Departments of Environment and PCBs/PCCs was directed to ensure compliance of Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016 and furnish action take report to CPCB and CPCB as directed to take further steps and furnish a consolidated report to this Tribunal of the steps taken and the ground status.

The Tribunal further issued detailed directions for BMW management in light of observation that 615 TPD waste was generated and only 541 TPD treated. Directions were also issued for ensuring proper functioning of facilities, proper EC and preventing pilferage of waste.

(Case: In Re: Scientific Disposal of Bio-Medical Waste arising out of COVID-19 treatment- Compliance of BMW Rules, 2016, Original Application No. 72/2020Order dated 18.01.2021)

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 at remaining 175 stations within six months which would monitor the air quality on all 12 notified parameters under the Air Act. Carrying Capacity and Source Apportionment studies were directed to be undertaken by the State PCBs/PCCs, utilizing the 'consent mechanism'/ 'environmental compensation' fund. The States were directed to take further steps to set up and operate PGRPs expeditiously, within three months. Direction was passed to prepare actions plans for the newly added non-attainment cities.

The Tribunal dealt issues of operation of Stone crushers, hot mix plants and Brick kilns in accordance with Carrying Capacity (CC) in; OA 1016/19 order dated 17.2.2021, OA 253/21 order dated 26.11.2021, OA 607/18 order dated 25.10.2021, OA 667/18 order dated 15.11.2021, OA 262/20 order dated 10.11.2021 and OA 19/21 order dated 9.9.2021.

In the aforesaid matters, the Tribunal directed to closing down the industries which were in violation of standards, not sited properly and operating beyond carrying capacity. In order to rationalize the development and considering geographic climatic pattern with background levels, Tribunal directed CPCB to study the associated issues and come out with suggestions.

(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 08.04.2021)

Remedial action for 351 polluted river stretches in India

The proceedings for cleaning of 351 polluted river stretches were first 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 also dealt with the requirement of establishment and functioning of requisite ETPs/CETPs/STPs.

The Tribunal has been continuously reviewing the monitoring the progress in the matter. While reviewing the Tribunal directed the Ministry of Jal Shakti to devise an appropriate mechanism for effective monitoring of steps for control of pollution and rejuvenation of all polluted river stretches in the country which may be called the National River Rejuvenation Mechanism (NRRM). The NRRM would be responsible for setting up National, State and District Environment Data Grid for effective monitoring strategy. In view of previous non-compliance, the Tribunal strictly directed that accountability for failure to comply with the directions for payment of compensation will be of the concerned Chief Secretaries under Section 25, 26, 28 and 30 of the NGT Act.

(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 22.02.2021)

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 had accordingly earlier 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.

The Tribunal, while appreciating the work done by the Committee directed further monitoring to ensure continued compliance and furnish report. The Tribunal further laid down regime for interim compensation to ensure preservation of ground water table and revival of water bodies.

It was suggested to explore whether a model can be developed as a strategy for augmenting supply of drinking water by linking water collected through RWH systems to the water supply systems on the pattern of schemes for connecting solar energy generated in individual houses with the Grids with requisite incentives to motivate the concerned individuals/organizations.

(Case: News Item Published in "Hindustan Times" dated 19.06.2015 titled "Dirty flows your drinking water" authored by Ritam Haldar; Tribunal On its Own Motion v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Ors.; Original Application No. 496/2016, order dated 22.01.2021

Wetlands Protection

NGT dealt with the issue of prevention of unscientific dumping of waste and encroachment of Hokersar Wetland, Wular Lake and Kreentchoo-Chandhara Wetland in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The scope of the matter was extended to the protection of wetlands in the country in light of the observations of the Supreme Court in in M.K. Balakrishnan & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2017) 7 SCC 805 that 2,01,503

wetlands that have been mapped by the Union of India should continue to remain protected on the same principles as were formulated in Rule 4 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. TheTribunal also directed the National Wetland Committee to compile information about the status of compliance in respect of all significant wetlands in the country in the light of directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in M.K. Balakrishnan, supra. NGT further directed preparation of action plans with regard to each of the wetland in their jurisdiction which includes remedying the issues of siltation, weed infestation, pollution, habitat modification, degradation of water quality, solid waste and encroachment. It was further held that CWA in the MoEF&CC needs to monitor compliance of the Wetland Rules throughout the country by periodical interaction atleast once in a month. MoEF&CC was specifically directed to ensure that all States and UTs map all available wetlands in their jurisdiction and file report with the National Wetland Authority so that National Wetland Authority can prepare an exhaustive inventory of all wetlands in the country and extend protection to all such wetlands.

(Case: Raja Muzaffar Bhat v. State of Jammu & Kashmir & Ors.; Original Application No. 351/2019 order dated 25.11.2021)

Rejuvenation of River Ganga

This matter has been under consideration before the NGT pursuant to the directions of Supreme Court dated 29.10.2014 in (2015) 12 SCC 764. NGT noted that challenge of cleaning Ganga remains inspite of monitoring by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and by this Tribunal for the last 36 years. Though, initiatives at the level of Central Government have been taken by way of Ganga Action Plans I & II and thereafter, setting up of NMCG, pollution of Ganga remains unabated.

Accordingly the Tribunal noted that time has come when accountability needs to be fixed for proper and timely utilization of funds allocated and timely performance of constitutional obligation of ensuring clean environment, including clean water of the rivers by meeting of the targets in taking steps. Failure of monitoring and fixing accountability only results in wastage of public funds, continued pollution and resultant deaths and diseases. Performance parameters and timelines need to be clearly defined and performance audit conducted. The same may include Sewage treatment, tackling encroachments of FPZ, E flows at critical locations, remedying non-compliant CETPs.

Need was felt for due investigation about the funds allocated and utilized in terms of achieving the result of reducing pollution load. To the extent failure, causes for the same and persons responsible was directed to be identified. The Tribunal observed that a performance needs to be evaluated and accountability fixed. Quarterly report giving the details of the funds allotted and progress achieved in terms of reduction in pollution load and other parameters may be placed on the website of NMCG so as to enable enhanced community participation and support. Compensation as directed in the last order may now be positively collected by the CPCB and the NMCG within two months. In case of non-compliance, coercive measures be taken including initiating prosecution against the defaulters under Section 26 of the NGT Act, 2010. NMCG and CPCB were directed to file further compliance reports by 15.04.2022.

(Case: M.C.Mehta v. Union of India & Ors., OA 200/2014, order dated 23.11.2021)

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 vide its earlier order 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 had 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.

While assessing the compliance of its earlier order, the Tribunal directed MoJS to ensure requisite manning and efficient functioning of CGWA to ensure sustainable ground water management. It was further directed to ensure a meaningful regulatory regime to ensure water availability and procedure for assessment of individual applications be laid down. The Tribunal prohibited grant of general permission for withdrawal of ground water, particularly to commercial entity without EIA and independent expert evaluation. Water management plans were directed to be prepared for all OCS assessment units expeditiously. The Tribunal further directed MoEF&CC, MoJS, MoUD, GoI, CPCB, Chief Secretaries and State PCBs/PCCs and SEIAAs of all States/UTs to comply with the directions to achieve the mandate of sustainable developmen

(Case: Shailesh Singh v. Hotel Holiday Regency, Moradabad & Ors.,Original Application No. 176/ 2015, order dated 23.03.2021)

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 Osmosis (RO) 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. 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 had earlier 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. A Gazette Notification dated 04.10.2021 on 'Regulation on use of Water Purification System' was brought about which sought to amend Rule 115 of Environment Protection Act Schedule I to the effect that all users of Domestic Water Purification System(DWPS) and other than Domestic Water Purification System ODWPS shall comply with the guidelines issued by CPCB. There was no provision for regulating and prohibiting RO systems where TDS is less than 500 mg/l, as directed by this Tribunal. There is also no supply chain management of the RO reject in terms of order dated 20.05.2019. In view of effective non-compliance by MoEF&CC, the NGT directed CPCB to comply with its directions uninfluenced by the earlier notification of MoEF&CC.

(Case: Friends through its General Secretary v. Ministry of Water Resources, Original Application. No. 134/2015, order dated 01.12.2021)

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 interacting with 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 had earlier 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.

As the statutory timelines were not met, the Tribunal laid down interim compensation for continued failure after 31.03.2020 wherein each Local Body was directed to pay compensation at the rate of Rs. 10 lakh per month per Local Body for population of above 10 lakhs, Rs. 5 lakh per month per Local Body for population between 5 lakhs and 10 lakhs and Rs. 1 lakh per month per other Local Body from 01.04.2020 till compliance. Compensation so collected was to be spent by CPCB for restoration of environment.

(Case: Compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016; Original Application No. 606/2018)

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 earlier order, the Tribunal had 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. The Tribunal also directed for carrying out of safety audits and cross-checking of inventory of industries and cautioned on prevention of accidents from handling hazardous waste at captive and collective facilities.

(Case: Rajiv Narayan & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., Original Application No. 804/2017, order dated 29.01.2021)

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 had earlier 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. CPCB was further directed to hold regular meeting with Chairman and Member Secretaries of all State PCBs to work our enforcement strategies in the interest of public health and protection of environment.

(Case: Central Pollution Control Board v. State of Andaman & Nicobar & Ors., Execution Application No. 13/2019, order dated 08.01.2021)

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 further directed 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. Further time was granted to the concerned State Authorities to comply with the directions of the Tribunal.

(Case: Westend Green Farms Society v.Union of India & Ors., Original Application No. 400/2017, order dated 04.02.2021)

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 05.02.2021)

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 had earlier 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 had 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 had 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. Further, in view of the non-compliance, the Tribunal constituted a monitoring committee to monitor compliance and suggest further measures for compliance, especially for Delhi for enforcement of noise pollution control measures.

(Case: Hardeep Singh & Ors. v. SDMC & Ors., Original Application No. 519/2016)

Environmental Restoration on account of Industrial Accidents

Tribunal dealt with the matters pertaining to industrial accidents causing fatalities. In all such cases, Tribunal constituted joint committees and sough investigation reports. It was broadly inferred that, accidents were mainly on account of lack of proper training to the workers, poor maintenance schedule, mishandling of chemicals not practicing on and off-site crisis management plan. The Tribunal passed elaborate directions for environmental restoration and affirmed compensation to the deceased and injured following the directions laid down by Hon'ble Supreme Court. Further, industries, were directed to pay EC to be used for restitution of environment damaged.

(Case: OA171/2021 order dated 07.09.2021, OA 65/ 2021 order dated 31.08.2021; OA 44/2021 order dated 11.06.2021; OA 130/2021 order dated 16.06.2021; OA 258/2020 order dated 03.02.2021)

The author is an Advocate, practicing at the Supreme Court of India

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