Clean Up or Shut Down Polluting Industries, Says Supreme Court

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India CSR News Network

NEW DELHI: Industrial unites polluting water bodies around them have been asked by Supreme Court to set up effluent treatment plant (ETP) otherwise close the unit. Supreme Court has given deadline for the 3 month to take action and submit the report.

Industries across the nation will have to ensure their effluent treatment plants are in working condition within three months or shut down, the Supreme Court ordered on Feb 22, 2017, setting the stage for a nationwide crackdown on factories that pollute the country’s rivers and water bodies.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar directed the state pollution control boards (PCBs) to issue common notice to all industrial units to verify whether they have set up PETPs as mandated under the legal provisions.

“States don’t worry about human lives,” Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar observed, a stinging indictment of the track record of state governments that have dragged their feet in implementing environmental laws.

A 2015 study commissioned by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that took a close at pollution levels of 275 rivers found there were at least 302 polluted river stretches based on Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels, a key indicator of organic pollution. The Centre helps state governments with money to clean up major rivers but insists that the separation of powers under the Constitution gives states, and not the central government, the power to act.

“It is an important issue. If the country doesn’t act now, it can never be retrieved,” the Chief Justice said during a hearing on a public interest litigation that asked the top court to intervene to stop industries from discharging toxic waste into water bodies.

The court ruled that environment secretaries and state pollution boards – that are mandated to enforce environmental laws – would have to ensure implementation of the court’s order. They must also put the data about the quality of treated pollutants discharged into the river online on their respective websites to make monitoring easier.

The pollution boards will have to issue a public notice to all industrial units to confirm they have a working effluent treatment plant. If an industrial unit does not have a treatment plant in three months, the power connection must be cut and the unit shut down.

In industrial areas, the local bodies have been told to set up common effluent plants within three years. If a municipality doesn’t have the budget to build one, they can get the factories concerned to foot the bill for the effluent plant.

The states will have to submit reports with regard to setting up of CETPs to the concerned bench of the National Green Tribunal.

The bench said local civic authorities could formulate norms to levy cess from users if they face financial crunch in running and setting up of CETPs.

Initially, the plea was restricted to Gujarat but later its scope was widened by the apex court, which had granted the last opportunity to the states on January 16 to file their responses.

Closure orders were issued to 442 industries by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for not complying with directions relating to online effluent monitoring devices or violating prescribed standards, the Rajya Sabha was informed on 14 March 2016.

(PTI/ Hindustan Times/India CSR)

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