NGT penalises Delhi govt 900 crore for failing to manage waste at landfill sites

Updated on Oct 13, 2022 04:57 AM IST

In response to the penalty, a Delhi government official said the NGT order was being studied, and refused to comment further.

A flock of birds circles the Ghazipur landfill site in east Delhi. (HT File)
A flock of birds circles the Ghazipur landfill site in east Delhi. (HT File)
By, New Delhi

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday imposed an environmental compensation of 900 crore on the Delhi government for failing to remediate and manage its municipal solid waste at the landfill sites of Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla.

“Following the pattern adopted in respect of other states, we hold the NCT of Delhi liable to pay EC of 900 Crores, having regard to the quantity of undisposed waste which is to the extent of 3 crore MTs at three landfill sites,” the tribunal said in its order, calculating the penalty at 300 per metric tonnes (MT) of waste.

In response to the penalty, a Delhi government official said the NGT order was being studied, and refused to comment further.

In its order, a bench headed by NGT chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, which was hearing a petition on improper management of municipal solid waste, asked the Delhi government to submit the compensation within one month’s time, which will then be managed by the Delhi chief secretary to undertake restoration measures and recover the land occupied by these landfill sites, which is valued at over 10 times this amount. It said the funds could be raised by the government in an appropriate manner from the “generators of waste, violators, erring officers, corporates and if so necessary and so decided, from a part of the land under the garbage”.

The tribunal said there had been a serious violation of the rights of citizens and failure of the public trust doctrine to protect environment and public health by authorities, which included the Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

“Steps taken so far do not meet the mandate of law and are not commensurate to the grim factual emergency situation constantly threatening safety and health of citizens and the environment with no accountability of officers entrusted the task. This is in breach of constitutional and human rights of citizens of Delhi who are forced to breathe polluted air, accept contaminated water and face other health and safety hazards,” the NGT order said.

The tribunal further said there should not be any delay or a proposed timeline extension up to the end of 2023, with the amount once collected to be placed in a ring-fenced account “to be operated under the directions of the Chief Secretary, Delhi for restoration of environment by remediation of waste and other measures”.

“The deposit may be made within one month which will be abide by further directions of the Monitoring Committee,” the order said.

The NGT in its order has also paved way for the expansion of waste to energy (WtE) plants without an environmental clearance, stating this was causing a delay in these projects.

“Since one of the obstacles pointed out by the Chief Secretary is the delay in getting environmental clearance for expanding waste to energy plant, we direct that expansion of such project can proceed without such a clearance, but consistent with environment norms,” the order said, asking for the end users of these landfill sites to also be identified.

The Delhi government will be required to submit an interim progress report on the matter, giving the status of compliance as on December 31, 2022, by January 15, 2023. “The report may specify the area reclaimed and steps taken for speeding up the waste processing facilities to reduce gap in waste generation and processing,” the order said.

When contacted, Delhi government officials said they were still going through the NGT’s order and will respond accordingly. “We are still studying the order,” an official said, refusing to comment any further.

Bharati Chaturvedi, founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, a waste management NGO, said while the NGT judgement paves way to end landfills in Delhi completely, doing it through WtE plants was the improper way forward.

“Giving them clearances without an environmental clearance is simply unacceptable. Around 50% of the waste Delhi is generating is biodegradable and there is a need for a decentralised approach, where no organic fraction leaves any ward, except in the form of biogas, compost or slurry. Each ward in Delhi needs to have around 20 dry-waste collection centres and composting pits need to be set up with each RWA in multiple parks,” she said.

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