Develop mechanism to assess damage caused to people due to environmental pollution, degradation

solidIn a letter addressed to Justice HL Dattu, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, Paryavaran Mitra’s Mahesh Pandya insists on the need on the need to develop a mechanism to assess damage caused to people due to environmental pollution and degradation by industries, causing health hazards and provide compensation to the affected people. The letter has been co-signed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL’s) Gautam Thaker. Text:

We are Gujarat-based voluntary organization working in the field of environment and industrial pollution issues. Our main focus is on ecological/environmental imbalance due to developmental projects, social injustice, human rights violations, and tries to resolve these issues.

We would like to draw your attention towards the status of Gujarat in terms of environment. CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India), in its report submitted in 2015 as well as 2011 regarding Gujarat’s status of CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant) has stated that “None of the CETPs discharged their effluents as per the prescribed norms by the GPCB and wide variations were also noticed in the performance of CETPs. There was non-disposal of hazardous waste timely leading to the pollution of natural water bodies into which these effluents were discharged and polluting the ground water as well as soil of surrounding area. The monitoring mechanism of GPCB/ ROs was ineffective in pursuance of CC&A conditions with CETPs in relation to the conducting of Bio-assay test and development of green belt in premises of CETPs etc.”

Also regarding TSDF (Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities) site, the report states that “As GPCB inspects TSDF sites regularly and they should take immediate step prior to exhaust of landfill site to avoid accumulation of sludge at CETP sites. This indicates that GPCB has not coordinated with the Industries/ TSDF organizer to develop TSDF site to dispose the sludge.”

Now non-disposal of sludge to designated landfill site and non-functioning of CETPs leads to polluting the ground water as well as rivers of surrounding area. Our intention to drawing your attention towards this was that we request you to develop a mechanism to assess damage cause to people due to contamination of ground water and rivers by the industries and give them appropriate compensation.

For this we would like to give you reference of one judgment namely “Solanki Jaswantsinh Kalusinh ­ Petitioner(s) Versus District Collector & 5 ­ Respondent(s) given in 2009, which states that “There must be some mechanism so that damage caused can be assessed as early as possible and the victims be compensated.” In our view, it is the primary responsibility of the GPCB.

If it discharges its official duties effectively and properly, such situation would not occur. Why should farmers be penalized for the inaction of the officers of the GPCB and due to the wrongful discharge of effluents into water courses? In such a situation, the only course open to us is to give a direction to the GPCB to see that as soon as on inspection it finds an industrial unit is causing serious environmental pollution, the matter may immediately be reported to the Principal District Judge and the District Collector of the concerned District.

District Judge in consultation with the District Collector will take immediate steps to depute a team consisting of members of GPCB, District Collector, Secretaries of Forest and Environment Department, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, Animal Husbandry Department, President of Gram Panchayat/ Municipality or their representatives for inspection so as to assess the extent of pollution and harm caused to the environment.

Committee would issue notice to the polluter, assess the compensation and submit its report to the District Judge. District Judge would examine and decide about the damage caused to the environment and direct payment of a reasonable amount to the “Environment Fund” to be maintained by the State Government.”

So we request you to give direction for implementation of this judgment in Gujarat as soon as possible and also want you to make efforts to implement it throughout the country as with the industrialization and development all the states are facing similar issues of environmental degradation and damage to natural resources causing health hazards.

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A Letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mitra, requesting him to make solid waste disposal system a priority in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

Paryavaran Mitra is a Gujarat-based advocacy organization working on socio-environmental issues since 1997. It acts as a watchdog and pressure group in the formation of policies and implementation of environment acts and rules. We appreciate your initiative to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of clean India by launching ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan two years back and we are happy that the country is going to celebrate Swachh Bharat Divas on 2nd October 2016 on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.

Under your leadership, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has also recently notified six waste management rules in beginning of 2016, among which sixth rule is “The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016”.

These will replace the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, by extending its limit beyond municipal area to cover outgrowths in urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, SEZ etc.

Past learning has shown that the implementation of rules has always been a challenge in India. There are several examples which I would like to highlight before you that show poor implementation and management of municipal solid waste sites in Gujarat. I would like to seek your attention to some of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) cases of Gujarat which were filed due to mismanagement of municipal solid waste sites.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a great initiative to make India clean, but mere cleaning will not make it a success unless disposal system to dispose of this collected waste is made proper. If solid waste disposal sites are not managed properly, it can give rise to several water borne diseases and contaminate ground water affecting human health.

First case is of “Paryavaran Mitra (Janvikas) Ors vs Gujarat State Pollution Control on 20 December, 2013” which was filed by our organization for air and water pollution caused by the Rajkot Municipal Solid Waste disposal and landfill management site at village Nakravadi, managed by Rajkot Municipal Corporation. NGT delivered its judgment in six months, ruling that Rs 1 lakh be paid as compensation to the applicants as the cost involved in filing the case, and Rs 25 lakh to the affected farmers.

Next case was filed in 2014 in western zone bench of the NGT by Surat-based Kantha Vibhag Yuva Koli Samaj Parivartan Trust, praying for implementation of the MSW Rules, 2000. The bench, while passing the direction, despite several orders by the NGT, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has failed to come up with a proper municipal solid waste (MSW) programme and then was recover amount of Rs75 crore for noncompliance.

Next case is an ongoing case of the Ahmedabad municipal corporation. A PIL has been filed in Gujarat High Court by acitivist Kaleem Siddiqui and Javed Qureshi in 2016 for mismanaged landfill site causing serious health issues for people living in that area. This landfill site which is also called Pirana landfill site has 5 big heaps of mountains of garbage and we have observed that throughout the day smoke is coming out from some or other part of these garbage mountain.

As Mumbai’s largest dumping ground caught fire this year, it is quite possible that a similar incident can happen in Ahmedabad too. So our question is if the situation of urban municipal areas is so poor so what can we expect from rural areas where there is lack of awareness! Also lack of adequate funding is also a big hurdle for proper implementation of the mission. So even though we will clean streets, cities, town, but unless final disposal site and waste management system is not made proper, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan cannot be a success.

With the above note, we would like to give some suggestions regarding this.

  1. We strongly believe that before implementation of solid waste management rules 2016, there is need for massive awareness and proper training within communities so that people can actually understand the importance of segregation which the new rule mandates and then participate in the cleanliness mission.
  2. The new rules gives provision that “the local bodies can charge a certain fee from generators for proper management” but on the contradictory we suggest that there is a need for incentives like awards to the rural/urban areas to encourage better implementation of the rules for which ministry can approach corporate houses.
  3. Another thing we would like to emphasize is on the funding that is required for management of such rules especially in rural areas which I would suggest can be channelized from CSR funds. We hereby kindly I request you to make solid waste disposal system a priority in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to make it a success.
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