Declare chemical emergency in industrial clusters, cancel environmental clearance of defaulting units

pollution1On 22 February 2017 the bench of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Mr. Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Dr. D. Y. Chandrachud, and Justice Mr. Sanjay Kishan Kaul, responding to Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS)’s writ petitions(c) No. 375 of 2012, delivered a significant judgement to combat industrial pollution and untreated sewage waste.

Following main directions were given by the Supreme Court:

  • The industry requiring “consent to operate” can be permitted to run, only if its primary effluent treatment plant is functional. The  Supreme Court  directed the concerned State Pollution Control Boards, to issue notices to all industrial units, which require “consent to operate”, by way of a common advertisement, requiring them to make their primary effluent treatment plants fully operational, within three months from today. That means deadline end at 23 May 2017. On the expiry of the notice period of three months, the concerned State Pollution Control Board(s) are mandated to carry out inspections, to verify, whether or not, each industrial unit requiring “consent to operate”, has a functional primary effluent treatment plant. Such of the industrial units, which have not been able to make their primary effluent treatment plant fully operational, within the notice period, shall be restrained from any further industrial activity. Such an industrial concern, which has been disabled from carrying on its industrial activities, as has been indicated in the foregoing paragraph, is granted liberty to make its primary effluent treatment plant functional to the required capacity, and thereupon, seek a fresh “consent to operate” from the concerned Pollution Control Board. Only after the receipt of such fresh “consent to operate”, the industrial activities of the disabled industry can be permitted to be resumed.
  • Liberty is granted to private individual(s) and organizations, to address complaints to the concerned Pollution Control Board, if any industry is in default. On the receipt of any such complaint, the concerned Pollution Control Board shall be obliged to verify the same, and take such action against the defaulting industry, as may be permissible in law.
  • The setting up of “common effluent treatment plants” should be taken up as an urgent mission. Common effluent treatment plants should be completed within the time lines already postulated. With reference to common effluent treatment plants, which are yet to be set up, the concerned State Governments (including, the concerned Union Territories) are directed to complete the same within a period of three years, from today.
  • The norms for generating  funds,  for  setting  up  and/or operating the ‘common effluent treatment plant’ shall be  finalized,  on  or before 31.03.2017, so as  to  be  implemented  with  effect  from  the next financial  year.   In  case,  such  norms  are  not  in  place,  before  the commencement of the next financial year,  the  concerned  State  Governments (or the Union Territories), shall cater to the  financial  requirements,  of running the “common effluent treatment plants”,  which  are  presently  dis-functional, from their own financial resources.
  • For the purpose of setting up of “common effluent treatment plants”, the concerned State Governments (including, the concerned Union Territories) will prioritize such cities, towns and villages, which discharge industrial pollutants and sewer, directly into rivers and water bodies.
  • Supreme Court also directs that ‘sewage treatment plants’ shall also be set up and made functional, within the time lines.
  • The directions pertaining to continuation of industrial activity only when there is in place a functional “primary effluent treatment plants”, and the setting up of functional “common effluent treatment plants” within the time lines, expressed above, shall be of the Member Secretaries of the concerned Pollution Control Boards. The Secretary of the Department of Environment, of the concerned State Government (and the concerned Union Territory), shall be answerable in case of default.
  • The concerned Secretaries to the Government shall be responsible of monitoring the progress, and issuing necessary directions to the concerned Pollution Control Board, as may be required, for the implementation of the above directions. They shall be also responsible for collecting and maintaining records of data, in respect of the directions contained in this order. The said data shall be furnished to the Central Ground Water Authority, which shall evaluate the data, and shall furnish the same to the Bench of the jurisdictional National Green Tribunal.
  • To supervise complaints of non-implementation of the instant directions, the concerned Benches of the National Green Tribunal, will maintain running and numbered case files, by dividing the jurisdictional area into units. The above mentioned case files, will be listed periodically.
  • The concerned Pollution Control Board is also hereby directed, to initiate such civil or criminal action, as may be permissible in law, against all or any of the defaulters.
  • It would be in the interest of implementation of the objective sought to be achieved, to also require each concerned State(and each, concerned Union Territory) to make provision for “online, real time, continuous monitoring system” to display emission levels, in the public domain, on the portal of the concerned State Pollution Control Board. We are informed that at least three State Governments have already adopted the aforesaid measures. Such measures shall be put in place by all the concerned State Governments (including, the concerned Union Territories), within six months from today.

This order will test how State Pollution Control Boards of various States implement it. It will also be crucial for the affected people and organisations to put their efforts to get this order implemented. It is going to be very tough fight for the affected people and organisations.

If the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board agrees in letter and spirit of this order then it should immediately start it action by cancelling the ‘Consolidated Consent and Authorization’ (CC&A) and issue closure to ‘Narmada Clean Tech’ (NCT), Ankleshwar as the ‘Final Effluent Treatment Plant’ (FETP) has consistently been unable to meet the prescribed GPCB norms since its inception.

It should also declare ‘Chemical Emergency’ for ‘ECP (Environment Channel Project) Industrial Cluster’ of Vadodara District and cancel the ‘Consolidated Consent and Authorization’ (CC & A) of ‘Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited’, cancel the ‘Environment Clearance’ (EC) of all the defaulting polluting industries of the ‘ECP Industrial Cluster’ of Vadodara District. Similar action is also warranted against all such treatment plants across Gujarat which are not able to meet the prescribed norms.

— Rohit Prjapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai, Anand Mazgaonkar, Rajnibhai Dave, Michael Mazgaonkar  (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Kirit Amin, Ghanshyam Patel (Farmers’ Action Group); Salim Patel, Hareshbhai Parmar (Prakruti Suraksha Mandal, Ankleshwar)

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