NGT constitutes a committee to suggest further mitigation and regulatory steps for Vishnu Prayag HEP in Uttarakhand
The Application (Bharat Jhunjhunwala Versus Union of India & Ors. [Original Application No. 161 of 2014]) filed under Section 14(1) r/w Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 before the Principal Bench, NGT on 24th September 2015 prayed for an order directing the removal of the Vishnu Prayag Hydro Electric Project located in the upper reaches of River Alakananda in Uttarakhand; and for restitution of the environment and payment of compensation in accordance with the Polluter Pays Principle. The Applicant’s contention was that the project has led to various environmental impacts over the period of years, which have come to light now; and, that these new facts require relook at the efficacy of the project.
Issue taken up: Whether the relief of decommissioning of the dam should be granted and the factors to be considered for the decommissioning of a dam? Mitigation measures to safeguard the environment and prevent the decommissioning.
Held: No merit in the application. Plea to grant decommissioning denied. Applicant could not establish the risks and adverse environmental and ecological impacts of the project; however, the Tribunal constituted a committee to suggest further mitigative and regulatory steps to be taken by the Project Proponent in the interest of the environment, ecology and aquatic bio-diversity.
Compliance: Committee constituted to spell out the precautionary and mitigative measures, which will be treated as directions and need to be carried out by the Proponent within 3 months of their issuance.
Maneka Kaur, Lawyer
Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE)
Windmills to Pay Environmental Compensation of Rs 50 Lakh in Andhra Pradesh
Case : Kallpavalli Vrikha Pempakamdarula Paraspara Sahayaka Sahakara Sangam Ltd. & Anr. Versus Union of India & Ors. [Original Application No. 92 of 2013 before National Green Tribunal]
The subject matter of this Application before NGT lies with the Applicants’ concern with regard to the possible adverse effects from the windmills project undertaken in the Kallpavalli area of Andhra Pradesh. The Application sought specific reliefs including- setting up of an expert committee to understand the actual threat which these windmills pose on the environment and human health; restoration of all the water bodies in the region, which had suffered in the hands of pollution and excavation caused during the construction and setting up of these windmills; inclusion of windmill farms in Category A of the schedule of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006; and compensation for losses suffered.
Issue taken up: “Whether the installed windmills have caused any adverse environmental impact, and if so, whether there should be any direction for restitution or restoration of the environment.”
Held: Rs. 50 Lakhs to be deposited, by the company, as environmental compensation with the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, which shall be used for restoration of ecology and environment of the area; trees of local indigenous species to be planted under guidance of State Forest Department on the constructed road; trees to be planted on hill top around wind turbines, which shall be maintained as a green area; plastic to be disposed properly.
Provision for compliance: Compliance Report on action taken to be filed every six months for five years.
Environmental Lawyer, LIFE, New Delhi
Widening of NH7 between Mansar and Khawasa – NGT stays felling of trees
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in New Delhi on Wednesday, 7 May 2015, stayed felling of trees for the four-laning of NH7 between Mansar and Khawasa on MP border.
The stay was granted by Justice Swatanter Kumar, chairperson of NGT, on an appeal (25 of 2015) filed by Srushti Paryavaran Mandal, an environment protection NGO of Nagpur through Ritwick Dutta, an Environmental Lawyer in Delhi.
It has been pointed out in the appeal that widening of the highway would not only impact forests, wildlife, particularly tiger reserves Pench in Maharashtra but also in Madhya Pradesh.
Prepare a control mechanism, ensure standards for coal at source & at point of use: NGT directs MoEF
In an application to the NGT of Ratandeep Rangari Vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors [APPLICATION NO.19/2014 (WZ)], Hon’ble Justice V.R. Kingaonkar on 20th April 2015 directed that “within four (4) weeks, the Secretary, Joint Secretary, Director concerned of the MoEF, and if so required stakeholders called by them, may hold a common meeting in the office of MoEF, to prepare scheme for control mechanism and relevant guidelines, as to how standards for coal at the source, as well as at the point of use, shall be ensured by the MoEF and/or local State Boards and if any deviation is noticed by the MoEF, what kind of action, shall be taken against the industry/Coal fields, or the concerned parties, whosoever may be i.e. defaulting party.
The direction further specified that a detailed enforcement protocol clearly identifying responsible agency and clear implementation strategy, with required delegation of powers is expected from such meeting.
The NGT had observed that “inspite of order dated 24th March, 2014, the MoEF has not come up with an appropriate Notification to clarify the basic issue regarding manner in which implementation and monitoring of due compliances would be made, as also to co-ordinate the collection of information from all State Pollution Control Boards, in order to ensure compliance of parameters by the Coal Mines/Power Plants, within territory of each State. The MoEF, cannot abduct its own responsibility by saying that instructions are given to the State Boards vide O.M. of even number dated September 25th, 2014, for strict compliance of earlier Notification No.GSR/02-E, dated 2nd January, 2014. The MoEF itself ought to exercise the powers available under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, as well as other provisions of the Act, as and when non-compliances of standards are noticed.”
The NGT also found that the present Application was filed more than a year ago “on 7th February, 2014, and appears to have been filed in the interest of general public and environment. Considering these aspects, protraction of such litigation by the MoEF, without reason or rhyme, is unexpected and unsuitable to the case.”
Hence the NGT also directed that “MoEF shall pay adjournment costs of Rs. 25,000/- to each of the Advocates, appearing for the Applicant Mr Arpit Ratan; for Respondent Nos.1,2,8,9 Mr. Rakesh Rathod; for Respondent No.10, Supriya Dangare; for Respondent No.7 Mr. Arif Bookwala a/w Mr Kartik Shukul; for Respondent No.8 Mr. Kartik N. Shukul.”
The control mechanism shall be placed on the website as and when it is finalized within period of one week by the MoEF.
All in all the NGT has given the MoEF a maximum of 5 weeks to place in public domain a control mechanism to ensure standards for coal at source & at point of use.
In case the aforesaid directions are not complied with, the NGT warned that “we will be compelled to enhance the litigation costs and issue further directions to recover the costs by coercive method, through agency of Civil Court, by attachment of property of the MoEF.”
EIA Resource & Response Centre (ERC), Goa
NGT order Assam Government to file Action Taken Report on CAG Report on Kaziranga and Release Funds to the Reserve
National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Rohit Choudhary Vs. Union of India & Ors. (Original Application No. 174 of 2013) on 22 April 2015 took a serious note of lapses on the part of Assam Government in relation to Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. Regarding non- release of fund to the Reserve it said, “We find that funds released on 25th February, 2015, 13th March, 2015 and 19th November, 2014 to the State of Assam by the RBI have not been released to the Tiger reserves (Kaziranga and Manas) for its proper utilisation. This is certainly going to effect the implementation of the measures which are expected to the taken in the interest of the Kaziranga National Park. We direct State of Assam to release these fund made available to them by the RBI within two weeks if not released.”
Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India has recently published ‘Performance of Audit of Kaziranga National Park (Report No. 3 of 2014)’ This report was presented to the NGT by Advocate Ritwick Dutta appearing for the Applicant. The report has brought out several lapses on the part of government which is impacting management and conservation of the Reserve. CAG has made several recommendations for improving the situation in the Reserve. NGT has, thus, directed Assam to take positive action in respect of the recommendations made in the CAG Report and place before it the action taken report within three weeks.
In the case, the Applicant has stated that ‘there is non-compliance of the Environmental Clearance condition of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, dated: 31st May, 1991 granted to the Numaligarh Refinery Limited for setting up its refinery project in the district Golaghat, Assam. The Environmental Clearance was granted subject to strict compliance of various conditions. One of the conditions relates to de-notification of the stretch of National Highway-37 from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat and the diversion of the Highway away from the Kaziranga National Park. This NH 37 is resulting in large scale mortality of wild animals and disturbance to their habitat near Kaziranga National Park. It is affecting the ecology of the area and the long term future of the Indian rhino, elephants and other fauna in the Kaziranga National Park which is also a World Heritage Site.’
In the decade between 2003 and 2013, 251 animals of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) were killed by the speeding vehicles on the National Highway 37 according to the authorities in reply to an RTI filed by Rohit Choudhury.
In this case, NGT had on 9 October 2013 restrained ‘the State of Assam from widening and shouldering of the road in question (National Highway 37 in Assam)’. It had even ordered ‘The Principal Secretary of Forest, Principal Secretary of Environment and Chief Engineer and Secretary of PWD shall be present before the Tribunal on 29th October, 2013.’
Furthermore, NGT in an order in February this year has said, “It remains undisputed that the state government has not taken effective measures to prevent animal deaths on the national highway, which passes through the park."
EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC)
New Delhi - 110 048. India
Web : ercindia.org