The National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, has expressed shock over 800-odd packaged drinking water units functioning without consent from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board TNPCB).

Questioning the inaction of the officials, the members of the Tribunal wondered how such units were allowed to function all these years.

The Tribunal, comprising Justice M.Chockalingam and Prof. R. Nagendran, described the situation as alarming after receiving a comprehensive report from the TNPCB on units functioning in the State.

Based on a news report published in The Hindu, which highlighted certain violations of packaged drinking water units, the Tribunal last March directed the authorities, including the TNPCB, to file a comprehensive report. The authorities initiated action against the units across the State. Aggrieved over the action, two associations of packaged drinking water units impleaded themselves in the case and sought relief.

As directed by the Tribunal, H. Malleshappa, Member Secretary, and S.Selvan, Joint Chief Environmental Engineer, who were present when the Tribunal took up the matter and also filed an affidavit before the Tribunal.

After perusing the affidavit, Mr.Justice Chockalingam observed, “Eight hundred and fourteen units are functioning without consent and only 153 had obtained consent. Is the figure not alarming and how do you justify this? How can things go on like this for decades?”

Then the joint Chief Environmental Engineer said, “We have issued show cause notices to those units without consent.”

Declining to accept his contention, Mr.Justice Chockalingam asked what District Engineers were doing all these years. “Who is going to shoulder the responsibility for regulating the units?”

“After 150 days had passed since the Tribunal took up the matter, you come up with how many units are functioning with consent or without consent. What we need is action, not action taken reports,” Dr.Nagendran noted.

P.S.Raman, senior counsel for the Tamil Nadu Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers’ Association, submitted that its members had Bureau of Indian Standards marks. However, the TNPCB could not consider the applications for consent in view of certain observations in an order of Division Bench of Madras High Court on groundwater extraction. He sought to adjourn the hearing so as to enable the association to approach the High Court to file a review petition. The Bench adjourned the matter to October 17.