PCB asks Kochi Corporation to pay up ₹13.95-crore penalty

The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has asked the Kochi Corporation to show cause within 15 days as to why it shall not recover an environmental compensation of ₹13.95 crore for its failure to comply with the norms under the Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016.

The notice was issued by the board chairman to the secretary of the civic body on October 15.

The amount was fixed for a period starting from November 22, 2018, to September 30 this year. The notice was issued as a follow-up of the steps being taken on the basis of a directive by the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal on a case related to non-compliance with SWM Rules, 2016 at the Brahmapuram solid waste processing plant, resulting in environmental pollution and posing a threat to public health.

The tribunal had stated that the Pollution Control Board could independently proceed against local bodies that were not complying with rules and assess the damage caused to the environment owing to such a lapse. The board had also used its powers prescribed under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, while fixing the environment compensation based on ‘polluter pays principle’.

Waste generation

The assessment of environment compensation was done as per the population and class of the civic body. Kochi Corporation’s population was estimated at 6.77 lakh as per the 2011 Census data and it was included as a Class 1 local body. The daily waste generation was pegged at 315.96 tonnes. The waste disposed as per the rules was only 31.6 tonnes per days. The waste management capacity gap was estimated at 284.36 tonnes per day.

A meeting convened by the Chief Secretary in Thiruvananthapuram on September 22 had proposed that the compensation might be assessed for non-compliance from April this year onwards based on the population in each local body and as suggested in the tribunal’s order on July 3. The corporation would have had to pay a total of ₹25 lakh only as compensation from April 1 to September 30 based on this formula.

The board later decided to stick to the assessment procedure prescribed for the Central Pollution Control Board for cities included under the Class 1 category based on population. The notice also said that the corporation had not obtained authorisation under the SWM Rules, 2016.

Decision pending on municipalities

A decision on issuing notices for recovery of environment compensation from five municipalities dumping their biodegradable waste in Brahmapuram has been put on hold temporarily for want of clarity on the compensation regime.

Besides the Kochi Corporation, the Pollution Control Board had assessed the environment compensation for five municipalities including Aluva, Angamaly, Thrikkakara, Kalamassery, and Thripunitura for non-compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. The compensation estimated was ₹2.77 crore for Kalamassery, ₹1.72 crore for Aluva, ₹1.96 crore for Angamaly, ₹2.92 crore for Thrikkakara, and ₹2.72 crore for Thripunithura as on July 31, 2020.

Clarification sought

Senior board officials said that they had sought clarification from the Central Pollution Control Board on the formula to be followed for fixing the environment compensation on local bodies having population below one lakh. The five municipalities did not figure in the Class 1 category like the Kochi Corporation in terms of their population. A decision on whether notices should be issued to these five local bodies would be taken on the feedback of the Central board, they said.

The secretaries of the five municipalities had a recent online meeting with senior board officials on the action taken to manage the solid waste generated under their jurisdiction based on SWM Rules, 2016. Officials of the civic bodies claimed that they had internal systems in place to handle non-biodegradable waste. However, they admitted that biodegradable waste was still being transported to the dump yard in Brahmapuram.

As per the compensation scale proposed by the National Green Tribunal for non-compliance from April 1 this year, the local body having a population above 10 lakh would have to pay a compensation of ₹10 lakh a month while the corresponding figure for civic bodies having population between 5 lakh and 10 lakh will be ₹5 lakh per month. The tribunal had stated that the compensation would be ₹1 lakh a month for other local bodies.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 6:14:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/pcb-asks-kochi-corporation-to-pay-up-1395-crore-penalty/article32904649.ece

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