The 2021 National Green Tribunal not only raised key environmental issues in the country, but also introduced a new style of functioning. It sparked the government machinery to quickly act and intensify its surveillance and monitoring.
The NGT cracked down upon industrial units that pollute and stressed the importance of cleaning the Ganga & the Yamuna.
The courts switched to virtual mode after COVID-19. The NGT continued hearing cases via video conferencing. It even extended its summer vacation to 2021, in light of an exponential rise in coronavirus cases between April and May.
For failing to fulfill their ”statutory'” obligations, and corporate houses causing damage to the environment and ecology, heavy fines were imposed on public authorities in the year.
NGT expressed dissatisfaction about Ganga’s cleaning. It stated that innocent citizens drank Ganga’s water out of reverence and did not know its harmful contents. The authorities should notify the appropriate locations of any harmful contents.
The tribunal noted that Ganga cleaning remains a challenge despite the fact that it has been monitored for the past 36 years. Accordingly, it is now time to hold accountable for the timely and proper use of funds.
Based on water quality data, 351 polluted river stretches were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Rejuvenation plans were prepared following the instructions of NGT with the aim of bringing the water quality to a minimum bathing level.
The tribunal stated that Yamuna’s water quality is still very poor as pollutants continue to be discharged into the drainage systems.
It railed against the authorities of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh for releasing polluted water in Yamuna. They were supposed to protect the environment and public health, and not enjoy position and perks.
The tribunal also took suo-moto cognisance of industrial accidents that caused fatalities or injuries.
Pan-India directions have been issued in various areas to ensure prevention of industrial accidents and the establishment of a disaster management plan on-site or off-site, assessment of environmental compensation and formulation and implementation of a restoration plan.
It also imposed Rs 20 crore penalties on four units in Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd. and Rs 10 million on a pharmaceutical manufacturing business in Uttar Pradesh, for violating environmental norms.
The NGT ordered the Kurnool administration of Andhra Pradesh, to implement remedial measures to repair the environmental damage caused by the ammonia gas leakage accident at Nandyal.
It also stated that plastic pens fall under the Plastic Waste Management Rules. The environment ministry was directed to finalise Extended Producers Responsibility.
Concerning biomedical waste management, all facilities in the country were directed by the tribunal to obtain authorization from state pollution control board while the CPCB was directed to ensure strict compliance to the Bio Medical Waste Management Rules.
NGT also noticed the fire at Baghjan oil well in Assam. OIL could not deny responsibility, shifting the blame to the contractor. A committee was formed to address the failures of those involved in the incident.
The NGT established an eight-member National Task Force to monitor and improve air quality.
The NGT stated that RO purifiers are causing huge water wastage and were being used purely for commercial interests at the expense of public interest. It directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests not to delay in issuing a notification banning RO purifiers when total dissolved solids in water is below 500 mg per litre.
It also directed CPCB to issue directions for management of RO rejects, cartridges, etc.
It also quashed an environmental clearance granted to a high rise luxury project by Godrej Properties Limited in Bengaluru and Wonder Projects Development Private Limited, and directed its immediate demolition.
NGT also examined the impact of poultry farms on pollution. They ruled that a person who runs a farm with more then 5,000 birds cannot be called a small farmer.
The green panel stated that the argument that small farmers run poultry farms with less than 25,000. birds is not supported by environmental law.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.