The National Green Tribunal dealt with a range of environmental issues in 2022 and passed several directions, including imposing hefty penalties on multiple states for causing damage to the environment and seeking restitution.
The green tribunal cracked down on several states and union territories for non-compliance with Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSW) Rules, 2016 and other environmental issues.
For lack of proper management of solid and liquid waste, the tribunal ordered the Maharashtra government to pay an environmental compensation of a staggering Rs 12,000 crore and Rs 3,800 crore on the Telangana government.
Also at the receiving end of its stiff penalties to tackle environmental damage were West Bengal, which was asked to cough up Rs 3,500 crore, Rajasthan Rs 3,000 crore, Karnataka Rs 2,900 crore, Punjab Rs 2,180 crore and Uttar Pradesh Rs 100 crore.
It also slapped fines of Rs 200 crore on the Nagaland government, Rs 50 crore on the Mizoram government and Rs 32 crore on the Union Territory administration of Jammu and Kashmir.
While West Bengal deposited the entire Rs 3,500 crore in a ring-fenced account, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of Rajasthan and stayed the fine.
Taking cognizance of news reports, the tribunal dealt with violations of Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) (MSW) rules resulting in damage to the environment and public health.
Acting on the news report about the death of seven people because of a fire near a Ludhiana dumpsite in April, the tribunal held there was a failure in scientifically handling more than 30 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of solid waste, which released hazardous gases, including methane, and also contaminated the groundwater.
The apex environmental watchdog passed several orders including a penalty of Rs 100 crore on the Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana of which Rs 57.5 lakh was to be paid to the heirs of the victims.
Taking note of huge garbage dumps in the national capital and recurring incidents of fire at the Bhalswa dumpsite, the tribunal highlighted the failure in properly handling more than 1 crore MT of solid waste.
Observing that citizens cannot be allowed to face an emergency situation due to lack of governance, it directed the Delhi government to pay Rs 900 crore as environmental compensation for improper management of solid municipal waste.
In cases of illegal sand mining, the tribunal issued orders for carrying out drone surveys and effectively prohibiting such activities, besides imposing costs and levying compensation.
It also issued directions to prevent illegal mining of stones and granite that was being conducted without environmental clearances or without following the safety norms.
The year also saw the tribunal impose environmental compensation and prohibitive orders against construction companies extracting groundwater without the requisite permissions.
In cases of road construction and development projects involving felling of trees and encroachments in wildlife sanctuaries, the tribunal directed the re-designing of projects and ordered strict adherence to the laws for environmental clearance and formulation of plantation and rehabilitation plans.
In an important order, the National Green Tribunal ruled the proposed music festival near the Ranthambhore tiger reserve in Rajasthan can be held only with the requisite permission of and according to the conditions stipulated by a joint committee comprising the National Wildlife Board and the state’s Chief Wildlife Warden.
On the issue of illegal functioning of hotels, resorts, pubs, clubs, ashrams and other commercial activities in the Chilla Range of Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, the tribunal directed all operating establishments be closed and all commercial activity in the forest stopped.
It also set aside the environmental clearance granted to a private builder for construction of a group housing project near the Vishwavidyalaya metro station in the national capital.
For matters pertaining to industrial pollution, the tribunal directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to review and streamline the functioning of State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs).
The tribunal passed orders on complaints of deterioration of ambient air quality due to the operation of brick kilns, stone crushers and hot mix plants.
While hearing a petition seeking directions to evolve standards for indoor air quality, the tribunal ordered a committee with officials drawn from the ministry of environment and forests and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to develop an appropriate mechanism in coordination with other concerned ministries, particularly the Ministry of Urban Affairs and the Ministry of Health.
The NGT said brick kilns in the National Capital Region (NCR) can operate only after assessing the carrying capacity of air in a particular area while following the notifications of the MoEF&CC and the directives of the Supreme Court