By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha
New Delhi [India], September 25 (ANI): The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the Jharkhand Pollution Control Board (PCB) for damage to the environment due to operation of quarrying and crushing units in Rajmahal hills.
It noted that "the damage to the environment and public health cannot be brushed aside and effective measures are required to be taken for realizing the guaranteed Fundamental Right to clean environment which is part of Right to life."
The NGT's scathing remark came while hearing three separate petitions relating to the enforcement of environmental norms in the operation of quarrying and crushing units in Rajmahal hills of the Vindhya Mountains, District Sahebganj, Jharkhand.
A Principal Bench headed by its chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the Chief Secretary of Jharkhand to take steps to revamp the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) and file an affidavit of compliance and also warned that if they failed to do so, the tribunal may take stringent action for enforcing the law.
Taking note to enforce the rule of law and for protection of environment and public health, the tribunal ordered that a scientific action plan is required to be prepared after an in-depth study of the problem with a clear road map.
The bench directed a constitution of four-member Committee to be headed by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India. It also directed state PCB and the District Magistrate, Sahebganj to provide all logistic support to the Committee to undertake their task.
"It will be open to the Committee to co-opt any other Expert or Institution and to conduct the proceedings in such manner as may be found viable. CPCB will be the nodal agency for compliance. First meeting of the Committee may be held within one month. Restoration plan and mode of execution may also be proposed," the NGT said.
The Green Tribunal noted that there was a need to examine as to how many stone crushers and mining units can be allowed and subject to what special conditions, having regard to the existing scenario already noted and to what extent the existing activities need to be regulated.
Making it clear that in the light of the joint committee and observations of the tribunal, the NGT said that the state PCB must perform its duties of maintaining necessary vigil and close polluting activities not complying with the norms and permit them only when norms are achieved.
"The 'Polluter Pays' principle should be implemented effectively having regard to the cost of restoration, extent of damage and the deterrent element," the bench stressed.
"...it is patent that the violation of environmental norms is rampant and in spite of orders passed by the Tribunal in the last three years, the situation has only deteriorated on account of failure of the statutory regulator in taking adequate action," the NGT said adding that the State PCB appears either to be in collusion or incompetent in performing its duties of taking stringent action against rampant violation of law.
"The damage to the environment and public health cannot be brushed aside and effective measures are required to be taken for realizing the guaranteed Fundamental Right to clean environment which is part of Right to life. The Tribunal has to enforce the principle of 'Sustainable Development', the 'Precautionary Principle' and the 'Polluter Pays' principle under Section 20 read with Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010," said NGT.
"The environmental compensation assessed is highly inadequate, in spite of the parameters being clearly laid down, the State PCB has chosen to assess compensation equal to violation on or before 30 days though violation is more than three years in flagrant violation of the mandate of 'Polluter Pays' principle, to the benefit of the law violators," it said.
"Thus, there is patent incompetence and /or collusion which needs to be looked into at an appropriate level. If the situation is not remedied, the State itself may have to be held accountable for causing huge loss to the environment. The loss apparently is to the extent of hundreds of crores. The agency hired is not shown to be having requisite credentials. The exercise falls short of the requirements. Such exercise must be done with the involvement of CPCB," it said.
The NGT also noted the updated report filed by Jharkhand State PCB on curbing the air pollution caused by the stone mines and crushers in Sahebganj district which stated the preliminary Clean Air Action Plan for Sahebganj district has been submitted and the final report is expected by January 2021.
The report further stated that total Environmental Compensation of Rs 6.33,57,000 had been imposed by JSPCB cumulatively on the stone mines and stone crusher units out of which Rs 2,36,25,000 was upon 55 stone mines and Rs 3,97,32,000 against 141 stone crushing units.
An Environmental Compensation amounting to Rs 1,66,71,000 has been collected by JSPCB cumulatively from the stone mines and stone crusher units. (ANI)
By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha