Cracking the whip, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Rajasthan government not to appoint the officials of state pollution control board as officers-in-charge in cases pertaining to pollution and various other issues related to the government departments.
The Bhopal bench of NGT issued the direction last week in the matter pertaining to pollution in Gandhi Sagar Lake in Bhilwara district. The tribunal observed that the Local Self Government department had failed to file a reply in the matter despite repeated reminders.
The tribunal directed the Local Self Government secretary to be personally present at the hearing on December 11 and submit the reply, along with the planned measures to check pollution in the lake.
Mentioning that the government had made a member secretary of the pollution board as officer-in-charge in the lake matter, the tribunal ruled that “RSPCB (Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board) is an autonomous body and cannot represent the state in such matters as in the event of the state and its functionaries being defaulting parties to whom directions may have been issued.” The tribunal directed the state government to keep this fact in mind while appointing officers-in-charge in cases dealt by the tribunal.
According to sources in the board, the trend of appointing board officials as in-charges in tribunal cases had been increasing and the board often wrote to the tribunal in this regard.
“The board is a regulation authority that takes action against government departments for violations; as such it cannot represent the government in such cases. The tribunal order will go a long way in tightening environmental governance,” said a board official seeking anonymity.
The issue of Gandhi Sagar Lake in Bhilwara was raised before the tribunal by activist Babu Lal Jajoo. The petitioner complained that the lake became heavily polluted as a result of unauthorised and illegal discharge of sewage into it. The tribunal observed that the issue had been pending for a considerable period of time and the government failed to initiate remedial steps to safeguard the lake.