The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) southern zone bench in Chennai has directed the Tamil Nadu government to constitute a committee to recommend the minimum distance to be maintained while establishing educational institutions near industries. The government must examine the recommendations of the committee and issue necessary instructions within six months, it ordered.
Judicial member Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member Satyagopal Gorlapati directed the Chief Secretary to ensure the committee comprised of the school education and higher education secretaries, apart from experts in the fields of pollution and public health. They also called for a report indicating the distance criteria to be fixed by the government along with a copy of the committee’s recommendations.
The orders were passed while disposing of a case filed by a private school management complaining about pollution caused by two foundries at Kurumbapalayam village near Pollachi in Coimbatore district. On perusal of records, the tribunal found the two industries were functioning since the 1990s, whereas the educational institution was established next to them only in 2011. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had initially taken action against the foundries on the basis of complaints lodged against them. However, the foundries had complied with all conditions prescribed by the TNPCB and the emissions from them were well within the norms prescribed by the board. Yet, the adjacent school had been complaining about pollution due to harmful dust particles being carried their way by the winds.
Not finding any justification in making such a complaint, the bench wrote: “The school having chosen the place next to the existing industrial units, which have been running for more than 20 years, cannot complain of pollution if the emissions are not in violation of the pollution control board norms. Moreover, they cannot demand that the units have to be closed as it is not convenient for the students or the educational institution as such to be next to the foundry units.”
After finding that there were no norms in place with respect to establishment of educational institutions next to industries, the tribunal said: “If the school is concerned about their students, they should not have started the same next to the industrial units. Any polluting industry is governed only by the rules and regulation of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.”
Nevertheless, in the interest of the students, the NGT ordered that the two foundries should not violate any conditions imposed by the pollution control board and directed the latter to keep a close watch. Further, the foundries and the school were directed to increase the green cover on the campus by planting tall species such as giant bamboos to prevent pollution due to the winds.
Further, “the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board may study the best practices followed internationally to address the dust problem in foundries and incorporate in their guidelines for adoption by all the foundry units. This exercise may be completed within a period of three months and file a report to this tribunal on the improvements, if any, made in the regulations,” the tribunal concluded.