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NGT forms committee to review environmental impact of inland aquaculture

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a six-member committee to study the sustainability of inland aquaculture practices and submit a report on the same within three months
By Prayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 03, 2021 12:42 AM IST

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a six-member committee to study the sustainability of inland aquaculture practices and submit a report on the same within three months. The move comes in response to a petition filed by Vanashakti, a city-based non-government organisation (NGO). The order was passed by the principal bench of NGT on Monday (May 31) and made public on Wednesday.

The committee will comprise members of the Union environment ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Union ministry of fisheries, state fisheries department and a member from Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute.

The committee will also undertake study of the existing consent regime under the Water Act, and suggest appropriate improvements for the same. Consent to establish and operate are granted for various industries by state pollution control boards based on compliance with the Water Act and Air Act, depending on the nature of the enterprise.

Environment group Vanashakti had filed the petition last year against fresh water aquaculture being carried out in Vadivale Lake in Maval taluka of Pune district. Vanashakti alleged that this practice is against the principles of precautionary and sustainable development. Government policies which allow for such practices, Vanashakti said, do not consider the harmful impact of poultry manure, chemical manures and other waste products from poultry farms such as gizzards and chicken guts, chemical fertilisers and antibiotics, which are staples in aquaculture farming.

“Aquaculture activities with modern techniques involve use of harmful chemicals. In the process, such chemicals are released in the lakes and other water bodies concerned. In the present case, permission has been given for aquaculture activities in Vadivale Lake in Pune district. The lake is a source of drinking water to nearby villages. Outfall of the lake is in Indrayani River which is source of drinking water for 28 villages,” NGT observed in its order, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT.

A prime contention mentioned in Vanashakti’s petition is that the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act (2005), which regulates aquaculture in coastal areas, lays down environmental safeguards for permitting such aquaculture, but there are no safeguards laid down for such activities in inland waters. “The applicants have submitted that the 2005 Act should apply to all aquaculture activities,” the green tribunal observed.

In its final analysis, NGT concluded that there is a need to protect the environment in the process of aquaculture activities “in water bodies other than those covered by the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act”, and has accordingly tasked the committee with forming new regulations for the same.

“This is a positive step toward protecting freshwater lakes, which are often sources of drinking water for adjacent communities, from industrial pollution. We cannot allow sources of sustenance to be contaminated for commercial gains. The ecological and public health impacts need to be studied closely,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti.

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