Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding polluting industrial clusters and policy, 23/08/2019

  • 23/08/2019

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of News item published in "The Asian Age" Authored by Sanjay Kaw Titled "CPCB to rank industrial units on pollution levels" With Union of India dated 23/08/2019. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) had filed an application for review of the order of the NGT dated 10/07/2019.

Background:

The CPCB had carried out study of industrial clusters in the country with reference to the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) which includes weightages on nature of pollutants, ambient pollutant concentrations, receptors (number of people affected) and additional high-risk element. On the basis of the above study in 2009-10, 88 industrial clusters were notified as Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs). These PIAs were ranked as ‘critically polluted area’ (CPA), ‘severely polluted area’ (SPA) and ‘other polluted areas’ (OPAs), depending upon the CEPI scores of each of these industrial areas. The CEPI criteria was revised in 2016 and based on the CEPI-2016 criteria, CPCB carried out further monitoring in the year 2017-18, it was found that number of identified polluted industrial clusters went up to 100.

The Tribunal vide order dated 13.12.2018 directed all the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Committees (PCCs) to finalize time bound action plans within three months so as to bring all polluted industrial clusters within the safe parameters under the provisions of the Air Act and the Water Act. The SPCBs and CPCB were free to take coercive measures, including recovery of compensation for damages to the environment on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle and also to adopt precautionary measures on ‘Precautionary’ principle.

The matter was taken up on 10/07/2019. The order dated 10/07/2019 dealt with the issue of remedial action against polluting industries in the identified polluting industrial clusters. The Tribunal noted the the CEPI Score for 100 PIAs monitored during 2018 and held that while strategies may be worked out for reducing the pollution load in the industrial clusters in question, the statutory regulators must perform their functions in the light of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘precautionary’ principle of stopping polluting activities and taking other coercive measures. CPCB was directed to compile data on the polluted industrial areas "not confined to more than one parameters as is now being done, but also with respect to polluted areas based on water, air or other pollution individually." This exercise has to be completed within three months. Further, CPCB was directed to prohibit operation of polluting activities in the CPAs and SPAs within three months and assess compensation to be recovered.

PRESENT CASE:

The MoEF&CC while seeking review said that the ministry is yet to take a final view in the matter of protocol to be followed by States/UTs for implementation of the action plan for environmental improvement of CPAs. Current CEPI framework needs to be reviewed and asks for six months time for policy framework and one year for implementation and till then "ban on expansion/setting up new industries may be kept in abeyance."

The CPCB says that certain SPCBs/PCCs are "certain SPCBs/PCCs are not clear whether even compliant ‘red’ and ‘orange’ industries are to stop their operations and whether non-industrial ‘red’ and ‘orange’ category projects of public utility are also to be prohibited. Further, the units which have sought consent to establish (CTE) by abating the pollution or where EC and CTE is already granted are to be covered by order of this Tribunal."

Order of the NGT Dated 23/08/2019: 

The NGT says that the order of July 10, 2019 does not debar MoEF&CC to review CEPI policy but "pendency of such steps can be no justification for not enforcing the existing pollution norms and applying the ‘Sustainable’ ‘Precautionary’ and ‘Polluter Pays’ principles on the basis of data available."

The Tribunal also clarified that industrial units which are found to be environmentally compliant would not be barred to set up and directed the MoEF&CC to devise an appropriate mechanism to ensure that "new legitimate activity or expansion can take place after due precautions are taken in the areas in question by ‘red’ and ‘orange’ category of units."

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