Repeated warnings by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the impending disaster at Brahmapuram fell on deaf ears as the authorities failed to clear the heaps of legacy (old) waste in violation of the Solid Waste Management Rules and other environmental norms.
The Principal Bench of the tribunal had taken note of the lapses in waste management at the yard back in 2019 following a major fire on February 22. It had issued several directives asking the government and the relevant departments to clear the legacy waste.
Disappointed with the government’s handling of the situation, the Bench led by Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel issued a warning on January 24, 2020, asking the Secretary, Urban Development, to appear before it while directing the authorities to show tangible progress or face action under the provisions of the NGT Act, 2010.
Almost a year later, the Bench lost its cool and came down on the Chief Secretary stating that “long stories of all-round failure of the administration are poor substitute for good governance required to enforce environmental rule of law for protection of public health and the environment. The fact remains that the administration is patently a failure in protecting citizens’ right to clean environment, which is in no way less important than the right to live in crime-free environment.”
Holding that the failure to uphold the environmental rule of law was no different from maintaining law and order and protecting citizens against crimes, the Bench pointed out that continuing violation of environmental norms was not only violation of rights of citizens but also had the potential for damage to public health.
“It is unfortunate that in spite of several orders of this tribunal for the past two years, the officers have only paid lip service to the issue. There is thus clear governance deficit which needs to be urgently remedied at [the] appropriate highest level in the State. There is failure to enforce environmental laws,” it said.