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‘Non-compliance of green court orders by govts. a serious issue’

July 06, 2023 11:38 pm | Updated 11:38 pm IST

Outgoing chairperson of National Green Tribunal says waste management and environmental safety are two main challenges in India

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel during a interview in New Delhi on Thursday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who took over as the chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July 2018, retired on Thursday. On his last day in office, he looked back on the achievements and challenges in the past five years and told The Hindu in an interview that compliance of NGT orders by governments continues to be a serious issue. Edited excerpts:

What are the NGT’s major achievements in the past five years?

My only achievement is taking decisions on pending issues to the best of my understanding and the data available. In some cases, people died because of breach of environmental safety. I gave directions for payment of compensation and taking measures to prevent such incidents. And for air, water and other pollution, I gave directions to prepare action plans and oversaw that. I gave directions for timely implementation, levied compensation for defaults.

We have done a lot of work on waste management for scientific handling of waste material.

What are the three main challenges to environment in India?

Waste management in one big issue. Environmental safety is another issue. In industrial processes, there can be incidents like the Bhopal gas tragedy in absence of safety measures. Fifty incidents of breach of environmental safety norms resulting in deaths took place that we dealt with in our 50 orders in the last two to three years. Sufficient steps are still not taken to prevent such incidents.

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What is the way out of legacy issues such as pollution in Yamuna which continue to persist despite NGT orders?

It is an issue to be addressed by the government or the executive who has to implement it. We say that the quality of water is bad, so remedy it. But if it is not being done, it is a serious issue to be addressed by the government. They are doing it to an extent, but they have their own problems. Non-compliance of orders remains a serious issue.

Would you say that NGT lacks power and it needs more power?

I don’t think it is an issue. Compliance is an issue.

The NGT had formed special benches (headed by chairperson in Delhi) to hear cases pending for more than five years in zonal benches (in other states) of the NGT. In a note uploaded in the NGT website, it was said that 275 cases older than five years were disposed of...

We identified five-year-old cases and we took up them on a special bench, which for whatever reasons one-member or two-member (benches) are not able to take a decision. So, those two members and other two-three members (together), we took the decision.

But Bombay High Court quashed the order forming the special bench and called it illegal...

The appeal against the HC order is pending before the Supreme Court. I’m not arguing the case (here) as the matter is pending before the SC.

The NGT received 15,132 new cases in five years and disposed of 16,042 cases, including pending ones. How did you do it?

We have gone by zero adjournments and have made procedures simpler. We accept only online filing and have independent verification of facts. We send a team to the site where the problem is to get data of water quality, air quality etc.

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