[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) to close 69 Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs), observing that “economic development cannot be at the cost of the health of the public and in violation of the law of the land”.
“Unless the polluting industries tackle the problem they have created, their operations have to be stopped/suspended,” a panel of the NGT comprising the Chairperson Justice A K Goel, Judicial Members Justices S P Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan and Expert Member Dr Nagin Ananda said, taking sou moto cognisance of the issue of pollution by industrial clusters discussed in a news report titled “CPCP to rank industrial units on pollution levels” published on December 13, 2018, in the “The Asian Age” by author Sanjay Kaw.
According to the report, the CPCB in exercise of its statutory functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (the Air Act), the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (the Water Act) and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (the EPA Act) had carried out the physical study of the industrial clusters in the country with reference to the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) which includes weights on nature of pollutants, ambient pollutant concentrations, receptors (number of people affected) and additional high risk element. Where the CEPI score crossed 70, the areas were designated as CPAs, where the index was between 60-70, they are designated as SPAs and those below 60 as OPAs.
The NGT in its 21-pages long order noted that in 2009-10 CPCB and SPCBs had identified 88 industrial clusters as Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs). These PIAs were ranked as “critically polluted area” (CPA), “severely polluted area” (SPA) and “other polluted areas” (OPAs). depending upon the CEPI scores of each of these industrial areas”.
“Ill effects of industrial pollution on the environment and public health are well acknowledged. This has made it necessary to strictly apply the principles of ‘Sustainable Development’ and permit (any) activity to be carried out without degrading the environment. The statutory scheme under the Air Act, the Water Act and the EPA Act provides for standards for air and water quality which must be maintained and violation thereof is a criminal offence”, the NGT panel noted in its order.
The tribunal directed CPCS and SPCBs to finalize time-bound action plans within three months so as to bring all polluted industrial clusters within safe parameters under the provisions of the Air Act and the Water Act.
The SPCBs and CPCB, the NGT stated, were free to take coercive measures, including the recovery of compensation for damages to the environment on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle and also to adopt precautionary measures on ‘Precautionary’ principle”.
The panel also directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to take steps on the basis of the report furnish by the CPCB.