SC stays NGT order against Rajasthan govt
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed an environmental compensation cost of ₹3,000 crore on the Rajasthan government for failing to remedy the huge gap in treatment of solid and liquid waste generated in the state
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposing an environmental compensation cost of ₹3,000 crore on the Rajasthan government for failing to remedy the huge gap in treatment of solid and liquid waste generated in the state which resulted in pollution and threatened the health of citizens.
NGT passed the order on September 15 while monitoring the compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 by states and Union territories pursuant to two separate orders passed by the top court with regard to liquid waste management in September 2014 and solid waste management in February 2017.
A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and justice PS Narasimha said, “The NGT order dated September 15, 2022 directing ₹3,000 crore as environmental compensation to be deposited by Rajasthan into a ring-fenced account within two months shall remain stayed.”
The court further observed, “The present order should not be seen as obviating compliance by the state on the other directions contained in the order (passed on September 15).”
The NGT order had expressed anguish over the lack of measures being undertaken by Rajasthan despite the case being monitored over several years. The September order said, “It is disappointing to see from the data presented by the chief secretary, Rajasthan that after January 31, 2020 when the chief secretary last appeared before the tribunal in the present matter, there is no meaningful progress as there exists huge gap in management of solid and liquid waste.
Data presented by the state showed that out of 176 dump sites having 88 lakh cubic metre of legacy waste, only 15 sites have been cleared corresponding to 2.3 cu.m. of waste. Further, more unprocessed waste was getting added on daily basis to the extent of 2,989 tonne per day (TPD). “As per the presentation, 3,534 TPD of waste is processed out of 6,523 TPD generated in the state which is equivalent to 54.18% of waste generation in the state.” The uncleared dump-sites remained as a source of air, water and land pollution that damaged environment and affected public health, the tribunal said.
On liquid sewage treatment, the state presented figures of total sewage generated to be 1,551 million litre a day (MLD) of which only 700 MLD was being treated leaving 851 MLD as untreated sewage. This was the data of just 68 cities. The tribunal said, “If we add 400 MLD for the remaining state (area beyond 68 cities with sewage treatment plant arrangement) total gap appears to be not less than 1,250 MLD.”
This had a direct bearing on the other issues being dealt with by the tribunal on pollution of river stretches and possible mixing of potable water with liquid waste.
“Till the gaps are bridged, untreated liquid waste will continue to remain a source of degradation of environment and damage to public health, including deaths and diseases which the society can ill afford,” the tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge, justice (retd) Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
Applying the “polluter pays” principle, the bench calculated the cost payable at ₹3,000 crore. Of this, ₹2,500 crore was over the gap in treatment of liquid waste, ₹255 crore over gap in clearing solid waste and ₹555 crore for failure to scientifically manage solid waste.
Senior advocate Manish Singvi, who appeared for Rajasthan, told the Supreme Court that the state was aggrieved by the cost imposed and not by the other directions in the order under challenge. The tribunal was forced to order compensation as it found that mere passing of orders showed no tangible results in the past years.
“Continuing damage is required to be prevented in future and past damage is to be restored,” the tribunal had said as it directed the Rajasthan government to file periodic reports showing progress in bridging the gaps in sewage and solid waste management and establishing stocktaking at the district levels. The state was further directed to link existing and upcoming sewage treatment plants with industries and other bulk users for using treated sewage.
As regards solid waste, the tribunal ordered legacy waste sites to be remediated and for utilising reclaimed areas to set up waste processing plants. It further required the Rajasthan government to have more green belts/dense forests up to mitigate adverse impact of waste.