The National Green Tribunal has imposed a heavy fine of Rs. 3500 as environmental compensation on the State of West Bengal for causing continuous damage to the environment due to the non-management of solid and liquid waste.
A bench headed by President Adarsh ââKumar Goel ordered that the fine may be deposited by the State in a separate segregated account within two months to be operated as directed by the Chief Secretary, adding that it is to be used for restoration measures.
The bench said restoration measures include preventing discharges of untreated and solid sewage treatment of waste according to the appropriate mechanism for possibly scalable planning and execution, within three months.
“If violations continue, liability to pay further compensation may need to be considered. Compliance will be the responsibility of the Chief Secretary,“said the bench.
He added “Furthermore, without fixing the quantified responsibility necessary for remediation, the mere placing of orders has not yielded tangible results over the past eight years (for solid waste management) and five years (for liquid waste), even after the expiry of the legal/set deadlines Continuing damage must be avoided in the future and past damage must be repaired.”
During the transfer of various cases to the NGT, the Supreme Court had asked the Tribunal to oversee the matters concerning the management of solid and liquid waste concerning the State of West Bengal.
Subsequently, the Tribunal had expected three model cities, towns, and villages to be brought into compliance within six months and the remaining state within one year. However, the House expressed dissatisfaction with the progress saying the state had not taken its guidelines seriously.
âEven after three years, there is no adequate compliance nor the same has been projected in the immediate future. No accountability has been set, no performance audit has been carried out and no entry into ACRs have not been made. There is nothing to show that compensation has been collected in accordance with the Tribunal’s directives”, It said.
The House was also disappointed to see data presented by the Chief Secretary of State which showed that after January 2020 there had been no significant progress in this regard.
âUntil the gaps are closed, untreated solid waste and untreated liquid waste will continue to be a source of environmental degradation and public health harm, including deaths and illnesses that the society can hardly afford. Hence the urgency of the situation for good governance to ensure emerging measures of public interest to protect the environment, natural resources and public health in accordance with the mandate of the Constitution “ says the Court.
Headquarters also expressed concern that even after 48 years of enactment of the Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) Act 1974 and the expiration of deadlines for taking action on solid waste management, d huge gaps still existed.
“Are there insurmountable difficulties for the State authorities or lack of will and determination? We find it hard to believe the first one. In our opinion, it is the lack of good governance and responsible determination of the situation that must be remedied as soon as possible,“It said.
Further observing that there is no liability for past violations, the Tribunal said compliance with environmental standards for waste management must be a high priority.
“The court has encountered cases of gross negligence and continuing damage to the environment in the absence inadequate steps for the treatment of solid and liquid waste. We believe that the issues have been identified and monitored by the Tribunal for a long time. It is high time for the state to realize its duty to the law and to the citizens and adopt more control at its level,â he added. says the Court.
Accordingly, the House has expressed its hope that the Chief Secretary will take further action in this matter by innovative approach, rigorous oversight at the appropriate level, including at the level of District Magistrates and Chief Secretary, ensuring that the gap in the production and treatment of solid and liquid waste is filled as soon as possible, by shortening the proposed deadlines, by adopting alternative or provisional measures.
Imposing environmental compensation on the state, the Tribunal also ordered that a semi-annual progress report could be filed by the Chief Secretary for further follow-up to the case.