Earlier on April 4, the NGT had noted that the effluent discharge from the CETP was high and alarming and had directed the Society to deposit Rs 5 crore as environment compensation
Venting anger against the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for failing to control high levels of pollution in Kasardi river in Navi Mumbai and not prosecuting the erring industries, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Taloja common effluent treatment plant (CETP) Co-operative Society Limited to pay Rs 10 crore as environmental compensation, instead of Rs 5 crore fixed earlier.
The tribunal has asked the Society to deposit the amount with the District Magistrate who has to maintain a separate account for the purpose.
A bench, headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, while accepting a joint report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and MPCB, holding that the CETP continued to violate the latter’s discharge norms and earlier orders of the tribunal on the matter, held that polluting industries could not be absolved of criminal liability.
The bench, also consisting of Justice Jawad Rahim and Nagin Nanda (expert member), in Arvind Pundalik Mhatre vs. Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Others, observed, “The Board cannot remain content with show cause notices if untreated effluents are discharged. Show cause notice must be followed up by further legal action. It is not clear as to why in spite of show cause notice, proceedings are being kept pending for such a long time even in an emergent situation and in the face of clear inspection reports. We also do not find any action plan for examining the fate of the victims who may have suffered on account of pollution in the river.”
“In above circumstances, we are left with no alternative but to direct that appropriate action be taken under the civil and criminal laws against the erring industries as well as for failure of MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) and the CETP Cooperative Society, to perform their duties. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board may take administrative action against the erring officials besides taking steps for restoring the damage to the environment and also for the rehabilitation for affected inhabitants in the area.”
Arvind Pundalik Mhatre, claiming to be a social activist, was represented by counsels Sudhakar E Avhad, Arvind S Avhad, Lalit Mohan, Chetan R Nagare and Karri Venkat Reddy. Mhatre’s application stated that there was a heavy discharge of untreated hazardous toxic industrial from the catchment area of the Taloja MIDC area in Kasardi river which was affecting the flora, fauna and aquatic life of the river beside causing an adverse effect on the human life in the vicinity.
The tribunal, on April 4, had noted that the effluent discharge from the CETP was high and alarming and was going into a creek from which water was being used for drinking. The cooperative society was directed to deposit Rs 5 crore as environment compensation and forthwith stop the discharge which was not meeting the parameters. On May 11, the MPCB was asked to shut down the industrial units that were not operating their effluent treatment plants and releasing their untreated effluents.
In an affidavit on July 11, the Society stated that there was huge accumulation of sludge which required four months to be removed. The society also cited other works to be undertaken such as repair of the motors for pumping of the effluents, repair of the pipelines, replacement of the oxygen diffusion system, cleaning of the aeration tank and tendering for sludge removal.
A joint report of the CPCB and MPCB submitted to the tribunal on July 31 stated that out of 229 effluent generating units, 195 were sending their effluents to the CETP. The MPCB had issued closure directions to 34 industries and show cause notices to 149 units.
While permitting the Society to collect Rs 10 crore from defaulting industrial units, the tribunal expressed the need of having a sui generis proceeding in the case to execute its orders.
Observing that appointment of monitoring/execution committees as in the cases of Ganga, Ghaggar and Hindon river pollution, ensured “credible mechanism” and helped the situation, the NGT appointed a three-member committee headed by former Bombay High Court judge Justice VM Kanade.
The committee, that would also have representatives of the CPCB and Collector of the area as members, has been entrusted, inter alia, to take stock of all actions taken in light of various directions passed by it and propose time-bound action plan to deal with the issue.
The online mechanism for monitoring the performance of individual ETPs and the CETP has also to be connected to the servers of CPCB and MPCB.
The committee, which shall take charge within two weeks, has been directed to send its quarterly reports to the tribunal through email. The panel may prepare an action plan within a month.
The tribunal has also directed the government agencies to file action-taken report within three months before it considers the committee’s report on March 5.