NGT Imposes ₹ Five Crores Penalty On WB Govt For Non Compliance Of Orders To Curb Air Pollution In Kolkata [Read Order]
The National Green Tribunal's Principal Bench at New Delhi has imposed a penalty of Rupees 5 crores on the West Bengal Government for failing to comply with the directions to reduce air pollution in Kolkata and Howrah.
The penalty has been imposed following the "polluter pays" principle under Section 20 of the NGT Act in view of the repeated lapses of the State Government in complying with the orders of the NGT for curbing air pollution in city.
"we are of the view that the State respondents cannot be let off without paying a reasonable sum as environmental compensation for the continued lapse on its part and in permitting the ambient air quality to deteriorate resulting in the people having to suffer serious hazards of health for all these years", said the bench comprising judicial members Justices S P Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr Nagin Danda.
The order was passed in an application filed by one Subas Datta for executing the directions in a 2016 judgment passed by the Tribunal. The Tribunal had then directed the State Government and State Pollution Control Board to comply with the recommendations of an Expert Committee regarding steps to improve air quality of Kolkata.
Specific directions were passed to phase out vehicles aged more than 15 years and to covert all transport vehicles to CNG. The directions were issued on basis of the finding that principal reason for the bad ambient air quality in the city of Kolkata and Howrah was auto emission apart from road dust, construction activities, burning of municipal waste and industrial wastes including plastics, population of DG sets and industrial emissions.
In the execution proceedings, the Tribunal directed the State to furnish data regarding number of vehicles which are aged more than 15 years plying in Kolkata and Howrah.
However, on November 27, the Tribunal found that the State Government had not complied with the directions. It was also noted that "The State Pollution Control Board has remained blissfully silent in spite of the fact that it is the primary responsibility of the Board as a regulatory authority to ensure that the ambient air quality is maintained within the permissible limit".
it was also held that in the meanwhile, the ambient air quality has deteriorated.
"If the regulatory authorities either connive or act negligently by not taking prompt action to prevent, avoid or control damage to environment, natural resources, people’s health and property, the principle of accountability for restoration and compensation have to be applied", held the Tribunal. It was also held that the accountability cannot be restricted to the polluter alone but also upon the governmental agencies who are responsible for enforcement of the laws to prevent pollution.
On that basis, the fine was imposed. The amount has been directed to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board within two weeks, failing which the fine will be hiked by a further sum of Rs.1 crore.
(Image courtesy: DNA)