Supreme Court issues notice to Centre, MoEF, 19 States

The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Central Pollution Control Board and Chief Secretaries of as many as 19 States, including Gujarat, on an industrial pollution public interest litigation petition filed by the Gujarat-based Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and the Farmers Action Group.

The hearing on the petition by the two non-governmental organisations, backed by several other groups, was first held on September 21, 2012, and was referred to a larger forest Bench of the apex court comprising Justices A.K. Patnaik, Surinder Singh Nijjar and F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla.

The Bench heard the petition on December 9 and issued notice to 19 State governments, which is returnable in six weeks.

Rohit Prajapati, convener of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (Environment Protection Committee), told The Hindu that their petition sought to implement the existing pollution control norms as well as the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

The petition, filed under Article 32, raises concern over the “massive” pollution of India’s waterbodies, including groundwater and seawater around the coast that puts at risk the health and livelihood of “millions of people, and also the health of animals, flora and fauna.” Counsel Colin Gonsalves appeared for the PSS and FAG.

Among several other things, the PIL has demanded the court’s direction to the respondents to ensure that no effluents with pollutants beyond the prescribed norms flow into any waterbody or seep into the soil.

No industrial unit should be permitted to function unless it has an effluent treatment plant that meets the norms.

“Our PIL is concerned with massive pollution, particularly in the rivers, waterbodies, also in the air and on the land in 43 of India’s ‘critically polluted clusters’ and 32 ‘severely polluted clusters.’ The facts reveal a very grim situation of massive pollution of India’s water,” Mr. Prajapati said.

The ‘critically polluted clusters’, as defined by the Central Pollution Control Board, include six places each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, five in Maharashtra, four in Tamil Nadu, three each in Odisha, West Bengal and Rajasthan, two each in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, one each in Kerala, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and parts of Delhi.

The ‘severely polluted’ States include four locations in Jharkhand, three each in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, two each in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and one each in West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.