NGT orders action on polluting fish farm, mandates nation-wide strict regulations
A recent judgement by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Western Zone bench, concerning aquaculture practices in Vadivale Lake at Maval taluka of Pune, is likely to have far-reaching implications for the industry nation-wide
Mumbai: A recent judgement by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Western Zone bench, concerning aquaculture practices in Vadivale Lake at Maval taluka of Pune, is likely to have far-reaching implications for the industry nation-wide.
The NGT has mandated that the industry as a whole be brought under tighter regulatory scrutiny by applying the terms of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification and bringing the practice under the consent regime of the Water Act implemented by the centre and state pollution control boards.
The NGT’s judgement, dated February 27, followed a 2022 execution application filed by a Mumbai-based NGO, Vanashakti, which through previous legal efforts had secured a May 2021 order from the NGT’s principal bench, in which the latter formed a six-member committee to study the sustainability of inland aquaculture practices.
“The (applicant) had sought execution of the order, wherein it was alleged that there was no policy in Maharashtra to regulate the inland aquaculture... There was only a regulatory framework available in the state with respect to grant of licences for aquaculture, but there was no provision made for regulating and assessing the environmental impacts before the grant of licences.”
“There is a complete ignorance of the potential of poultry manure, chemical manures and other waste products from poultry farms such as gizzards and chicken guts, chemical fertiliser and antibiotics, which are staples in aquaculture farming,” Stalin D, director, Vanashakti, said. A prime contention of the NGO was that the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act (2005), which regulates aquaculture in coastal areas, lays down environmental safeguards but there are no similar safeguards laid down in inland waters.
The aforesaid expert committee found that in the instance of Vadivale Lake, there was indeed a measurable impact on the local ecology. Water samples were collected within and outside the cage aquaculture of 0.15 hectare of the 230-hectare area of the lake, and pollution levels in the water were “broadly higher inside the cages followed by at 3-metre and 100-metre away from the boundary of cage culture” when compared to that of a location about 2.5-km away from the aquaculture site. Farming bigger fish is also polluting, the investigators said. Notably, phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations were also much higher than permissible, including in samples taken from other aquaculture ponds in a nearby village.
“It is evident that there is discharge/pollution load in the waterbody due to cage culture activities in the Vadivale lake with fish excretory matters and addition/use of feed (nutrients) which ultimately gets dissolved/mixed with water due to exchange of metabolite and nutrients between the cage and outside environment. It leads to discharge of trade effluent from cage culture premises into streams (natural or artificial inland water),” the committee report said. The outfall of the lake is in Indrayani river which is a source of drinking water for 28 villages and parts of Pune city, the NGT had previously observed.
“It is also evident that there is a need to bring inland aquaculture under the Environment Impact Assessment regime,” the NGT remarked in its February 27 judgement, leaving the Union environment ministry to consider the matter further. “As regards to the cage aquaculture activity to be brought under consent regime, the necessary steps shall be taken by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as well as Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) within three months,” the NGT also instructed. Consent to Establish (CTE) and Operate (CTO) are granted for various industries by state pollution control boards based on compliance with the Water and Air Acts, depending on the nature of the enterprise.
In fact, the MPCB has also been directed to take appropriate action within a month’s time, under the provisions of the Water Act against “one Bhardwaj Yadavrao Pagare, who was found to have conducted the cage aquaculture activity in the Vadivale lake with 24 cages and huge pollution load is found because of that activity”.
Reacting to the judgement, Stalin said, “We are thankful to the court for the judgement. It is important to constantly update the scope of environmental laws to tackle emerging sources of pollution. Aquaculture is being promoted in a big way by the state and the centre as a means of improving food security and providing livelihoods. That being the case, there should have been a parallel consideration to increase monitoring of inland aquaculture.”
Yashwant Sontakke, joint director (water), MPCB, could not be reached for comments despite efforts.