The Chennai Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) comprising judicial member Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta directed the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) to pay compensation of ₹22.77 crore to the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) within six months for causing large-scale air, sound, soil and water pollution in the erstwhile East and West Godavari districts.
The NGT has also ordered the APPCB to take further action that may be required against ONGC for non-compliance with the environmental laws in the process of operating its units and gave it the liberty to impose further compensation.
Besides, the tribunal directed the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) to operate its units in strict compliance with the recommendations made by a joint committee set up by it, after obtaining the relevant statutory clearances.
The NGT delivered the judgment in a case filed by Y. Venkatapathi Raja of Kesavadasupalem village in Sakhinetipalli mandal of Konaseema district against the ‘environmental degradation activities’ of the PSU oil and gas majors.
Assistant Solicitor General of India R. Sankaranarayanan appeared for ONGC and advocate P.V.S. Giridhar for GAIL while advocates Sravan Kumar and K. Muthu Meenal represented the petitioner.
The allegation was that the ONGC and GAIL have not provided a mechanism needed to check the pollution likely to be caused by their activities, such as discharging polluted water into the sea, water bodies and open land, causing gas leakages by not providing a leakage detection system, and for conducting blasting in Kesavadasupalem, Kesanapally, Antarvedi, Nagaram, Nagi Cheruvu, Uppudi and around 100 villages of the Godavari districts.
Their activities amount to violation of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Disaster Management Act, 2005, Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and the CRZ notifications, the petitioner argued.
In its judgment, the NGT ordered that ONGC and GAIL should carry out safety measures stipulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to prevent incidents of leakage in the future, and adhere to norms related to the utilisation of CSR funds.