Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal has held that Major Railway stations, must secure Consent to Establish/Expansion and Consent to operate under the Water Act and the Air Act, within three months failing which the State Board will take necessary action under the provisions of Water and Air Act in accordance with law.
A bench led by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, while hearing a petition filed by one Saloni Singh, highlighting the pollution caused at railway stations was informed by Railways that stations are not required to obtain consent under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (The Water Act), the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1984 (The Air Act) and the Hazardous Materials Act, 2016(The Hazardous Act) in view of press release issued by the MoEF&CC on 05.03.2016.
Moreover, railway stations involve interchange of passengers and providing basic amenities for movement and stay at platforms. Regulatory environmental norms taken into account by CPCB are not relevant for the railway stations. No production/manufacturing industries activity takes place at railway stations and therefore the Water Act, Air Act and the Hazardous Rules, are not applicable.
The bench said, "We are unable to read the said Notification to mean that the railway stations or the activities of the Railway Administration, do not attract the Air Act, the Water Act or the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (The EP Act). The fact that MoEF&CC has included railway activities in the list of some of the categories including 'red category' of industries is an indication that the MoEF&CC treats the Railway Administration to be within the purview of the EP Act as the said categorization itself is with reference to the said Act.
The tribunal relied on an order passed by it while dealing with polluting activities at and around railway godown Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. In which the observations of Public Accounts Committee of 16th Lok Sabha, to the effect that Consent mechanism under the Water Act and the Air Act, is applicable to the Railway Administration, were cited.
"It is, thus, clear that wherever there is significant generation of solid and liquid waste and gaseous emissions, the Water Act and the Air Act are attracted so that regulatory functions can be exercised. There is every reason to presume that major railway stations (classified as
such by the Railway Administration itself) are generating solid waste and discharging liquid waste water as well as releasing gaseous emissions unless shown to the contrary. Applying such test, it must be held that such stations are governed by the regulatory regime of the Water Act and the Air Act, unless shown to the contrary. There cannot be any blanket exclusion of or exemption from the regulatory regime, for such major railway stations," it said.
The tribunal also junked the contention of railways that restricted meaning should be given to the word 'Industrial' under Section 21 of the Air Act. It said "It is untenable'. The object of the Act is to control air pollution and if air pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere by activities at the railway station it cannot be excluded from such definition so as to avoid remedial measures for control of air pollution. Of course, if there is no scope for such emission, such railway station can be excluded depending upon potential of activities at such station. Major stations prima facie cannot be excluded."
Tribunal said Rules framed under the Environment Protection Act which include solid waste, plastic waste, bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, C&D waste, e-waste Rules, have to be complied by all the major railway stations, to the extent applicable. "The EP Act is umbrella legislation that enables the Central Government to frame Rules on the subject of environment protection and to issue directions. Rules framed applied to every generator of waste and occupier of the place where waste is generated. Undoubtedly, the railway premises are such places. The Railway Administration is the occupier of such places where waste is generated."
It has directed the team comprising of CPCB and concerned SPCBs/PCCs to evaluate the performance of major railway stations both in terms of implementation of action plans and compliance to the provisions of the Water Act, Air Act and Environmental Protection Act and Rules framed thereunder, before March 31, 2020 and file the action taken report by April 15, 2020. The State PCBs/PCCs will file the report through CPCB with regard to compliance of Section 25 of water act 1974 and Section 21 of the Air Act, 1981 of such railway station before March 31, 2020.