Brahmapuram fire: Kochi Corporation to file appeal against NGT verdict

The fine has been slapped without determining extent of damage caused by way of environment compensation, says Mayor M. Anilkumar

March 18, 2023 08:48 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST - KOCHI

Waste dumped along the service road of the NH 47 at Chakkaraparambu on Saturday.

Waste dumped along the service road of the NH 47 at Chakkaraparambu on Saturday. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

Mayor M. Anilkumar has said that the Kochi Corporation will file an appeal against the verdict of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slapping a fine of ₹100 crore on the civic body for its “continued neglect of duties” leading to the fire breakout at the Brahmapuram plant.

Addressing the media at the council hall on Saturday, Mr. Anilkumar listed three reasons behind the decision to go on appeal.

He said the NGT Principal Bench had disposed of the case without hearing either the Corporation or the State government though the civic body was asked to file a detailed affidavit. “It is not clear why this has happened since usually a court hears all parties concerned [before disposing of a case],” Mr. Anilkumar said.

The fine has been slapped, he said, without determining the extent of damage caused by way of environment compensation. “What if we pay the fine of ₹100 crore and it later emerges that the compensation amounted to a mere ₹20 crore?” he asked.

Mr. Anilkumar said that the NGT verdict itself stated that its order was without prejudice and subject to proceedings at the Kerala High Court. A case in this regard is pending before a Division Bench of the High Court.

Quoting extensively from the NGT verdict, the Mayor sought to prove that the consistent neglect of duty by successive UDF regimes in the past had antagonised the NGT leading to the latest verdict.

Antony Kureethara, Opposition leader in the Corporation council, however, put the entire blame for the NGT fine on the present governing committee. “This was a fine that the Corporation literally asked for by consistently overlooking the Pollution Control Board’s guidelines with regard to the Brahmapuram plant over the past two-and-a-half years. The Corporation is unlikely to get any stay on the verdict since it has failed to live up to the commitment given to the High Court before the guidelines would be complied with,” he said.

Asked whether Zonta Infratech Private Limited, which is entrusted with the bio-mining of legacy waste at the Brahmapuram plant, should share the fine, Mr. Kureethara said that the contract clause clearly put the onus on the company as well in the event of a fire breakout in areas under its control.

Meanwhile, the Pollution Control Board (PCB) is awaiting the outcome of the case in the High Court to initiate prosecution measures against the Corporation for alleged dereliction of duty leading to the latest fire breakout at the Brahmapuram plant. “An order has already been given to the chief engineer for initiating prosecution measures. We have also taken steps to vacate the stay on environment compensation of ₹14.92 crore slapped on the Corporation [in 2021]. As for the latest environment compensation of ₹1.8 crore imposed by PCB in the wake of the fire, the Corporation is yet to respond to the notice on it,” said A.B. Pradeep Kumar, Chairman, PCB.

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