₹28.20 crores penalty for discharging sewage: NGT panel to BMC
A six-judge bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to deposit within three months an environmental penalty of ₹28.20 crores to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for discharging raw sewage into the city creeks, rivers and drains.
“The amount may be spent on restoration of the environment by making a restoration plan to be approved and monitored by the CPCB. The CPCB may decide on the plan submitted within one month of such submission,” reads the order by NGT chaired by justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.
The order is subject to the orders of the Supreme Court which is pending. BMC had filed a civil appeal before the Supreme Court in March, seeking a stay on the NGT’s October 2020 directions -- which were the result of earlier public interest litigation by NGO Vanashakti. The civic body had also attempted to stay a subsequent execution application that Vanashakti filed before NGT in June, after observing little action by the municipality toward complying with the Tribunal’s orders. The SC however not only allowed Vanashakti’s execution application to proceed but clarified that the municipal commissioner himself will have to satisfy the NGT of compliance with its directions
Wednesday’s NGT order states that the civic body is liable to pay environmental damage for discharge of untreated sewage water into the water bodies at the rate of Rs. 4.25 crores per month till bio-remediation or phytoremediation measures are taken by the authorities concerned. “If remediation or treatment of the water of sewage water is taken, it will be reduced at the rate of Rs. 5 lakhs per month per drain systematically. The State PCB (pollution control board) is directed to calculate and do the needful according to the law from time to time,” stated the order.
An additional ₹10 lakhs per month per Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is to be deposited with CPCB for not rectifying operational deficiencies of the existing STPs that is leading to untreated sewage being discharged into water bodies.
“With regard to the situation where works concerning STP, sewerage network and its connectivity not yet started, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation has to pay an environmental compensation at the rate of Rs. 10 lakhs per month per STP, sewerage network and its connectivity after 31.12.2020 for the delay in setting up of the same. It will be open to the Municipal Corporation to recover the said amount from the erring officers/contractors,” reads the order.
The tribunal has directed CPCB to examine all STPs, CETPs within the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and calculate the amount of environmental compensation as per law and proceed to recover the amount and communicate to NGT within two weeks.
The bench has directed the civic body to install nets in sewage stormwater discharge drains to stop sewage solid waste from entering the sea along with the solid waste, and ensure that no untreated water is being discharged into the sea level. It also directed BMC to install mobile public toilets after identifying areas close to beaches where open defecation is rampant.
“We are thankful to the NGT for upholding the principle of “polluter pays”. Despite being the richest municipal corporation in Asia, the civic body for decades flouted the environmental laws and laws of pollution for which they have been hauled up now. We are hopeful that this penalty will serve as a reminder for all municipal corporations that are following the same path as BMC,” said D Stalin, petitioner, Vanashakti, a non-government organisation.
BMC should ensure mangrove area is kept plastic-free zone and recommended to install trash boom or trash trap for collecting floating plastic and other wastes & its disposal.
All sewage should be treated at the source and then release into Creek via streams.
Natural steams used as sewage canals should be stopped immediately and restoration should be carried out to recover the beauty of the mangroves of Mumbai and adjoining Thane District.
Pipelines that are directly releasing domestic sewage in the water bodies, creeks and wetland without treatment must be removed or connected to the STP.
There should not be any water logging during the rainy season, and the sewage line or water connection which are discharging the water from the city must be regularly monitored so that there should not be any blockage in the flow of the water.
Chief Secretary of Maharashtra may set up an appropriate monitoring mechanism at the state level specifying accountability of nodal authorities not below the secretary level and ensuring appropriate adverse entries in the ACRs of erring officers. Monitoring at the state level must take place on a fortnightly basis and a record of progress maintained. The Chief Secretary may have an accountable person attached in his office for this purpose.