The National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, dated 7th December 2020, has directed the Rajasthan government to deposit a fine of Rs. 20 crore within a month for not performing its function properly to control pollution in the Bandi river by local textile industries. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel also formed a monitoring committee headed by Justice Prakash Chandra Tatia, (former Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court) to take stock of compliance with environmental norms.
A plea was filed by Kishan Paryavaran Sangaharsh Samiti alleging that dyeing and printing industries of Pali town were discharging effluents in Bandi river which is a tributary of Luni river, leading to water pollution which is a source of drinking water of the livestock as well as the inhabitants of the nearby villages. The effluent has severely damaged the environment in the area. A study found that Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) do not have adequate capacity to treat the effluents. The number of factories is continuously increasing, without a corresponding increase in the capacity to treat effluents.
Arguments Before The Court
The applicant argued there was a serious violation of provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (The Water Act, 1974).
The applicant stated that there are many industrial units that are violating environmental laws that need to be closed and shifted. Furthermore, the applicant contended that there is a need to prevent environmental degradation and to invoke the “Polluter Pays” principle.
The applicant stated that the State, under the Public Trust Doctrine, must take remedial action for the protection of the environment and to give effect to the right of citizens to clean the environment.
A study of surface and groundwater in Pali, conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2008, had found almost 80 percent of the sample water unfit for drinking. The samples have shown high alkaline and chemical oxygen demand levels, indicating dangerous levels of organic pollutants. The quantity of total dissolved solids was four times higher than the standard. The case was transferred to the NGT from the Jodhpur High Court in 2012.
The Bench observed by the fact-finding reports which have shown a continuous and rampant violation of industrial norms by the industries in discharging untreated effluents in water bodies or on land, which has resulted in contamination of water, damage to the soil, and adverse impact on the environment and public health. There was no authentic and updated status of compliance available
After hearing the contentions, the Bench headed by chairperson Justice AK Goel has directed the Rajasthan government to deposit a fine of Rs 20 crore within a month for not performing its function properly to control pollution in the Bandi river by local textile industries.
The Bench also formed a monitoring committee headed by Justice Prakash Chandra Tatia, (former Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court) to take stock of compliance of environmental norms, which also comprises nominees of Central Pollution Control Board, state pollution control board, Pali District Magistrate, and Dr. Ajit Pratap Singh, Professor, BITS Pilani.
The tribunal further directed the committee to conduct proceedings by video conference and associate any other independent Expert or Institution.
The Bench directed the Committee to interact with all concerned stakeholders, including the villagers through their panchayats and also they can give recommendations for a future course of action, including the final quantum of compensation to be recovered on ”Polluter Pays” principles and plan for restoration.
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