October 1, 2021 2:17:22 am
The Gujarat High Court in an order directed that industries found flouting pollution norms be barred from participating in trade fairs and public private partnership events, while hearing a suo motu petition on the pollution in Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad.
A division bench of the HC in its order of September 23 that was made public on Thursday, has broadly cracked down on Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and industries, after the joint task force constituted by the HC to remedy pollution in Sabarmati river submitted last week that 120-kilometre stretch of the river has been ‘practically rendered dead’.
The bench of Justices JB Pard-iwala and VD Nanavati directed that “If any particular industry is caught flouting the norms or is found indulging in dubious practice or methods of discharging their trade effluents, such industry shall not be permitted to participate in any industrial fair, public private partnership events, etc.”
Cracking down on industries, the court has made it clear that the principle of “collective responsibility” shall lie with the industrial estates and/or industries located within the vicinity of each other and the industrial associations “shall take the responsibility for the misdeeds of its members.” Noting that a “decentralised approach…is needed to save Gujarat’s rivers from pollution,” the court has held that it has to use the ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ “to apply stringent provisions against permitting municipal bodies or industries from polluting rivers.”
The bench declared in its order that the “illegality committed by one industry shall result in collective penalties such as payments against pollution, i.e. on the principle of ‘polluter pays’, disconnection of the electricity supply in clusters from where the pollution originates, etc.”
The bench directed the joint task force to firstly undertake site visits, preferably during the first or second week of October, once the rain subsides, for carrying out inspection and collection of samples for identification of water characterization. Secondly, the court has also directed the task force members to “inspect each Sewage Treatment Plant and the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP)”. For both the tasks, the court has sought that a report be submitted before the bench.
The AMC has been directed to submit the details of industries discharging effluent into the sewerage network with or without permission, to the joint task force members latest by October 7 and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has also been directed to provide the task force with the details of all the associations/organizations running the existing CETPs and setting up the CETPs , latest by October 7.
Moreover, the Joint Task Force members shall hold a meeting with all the associations/organizations running the existing CETPs.
“Such associations/organizations shall be made aware that in the event if they fail to overhaul update and maintain its existing CETP at its optimum level, such CETP shall be shut down until the source of release of the untreated effluent is detected. Even if one of the members of a particular association/organization is found guilty, all the members shall have to pay the price for the same. A time limit shall be prescribed by the Joint Task Force for ensuring that the CETPs run at the optimum levels,” the court has instructed.
The GPCB meanwhile has been instructed to carry out “industry wise and industrial-estate wise” inspection along with the task force members and during the course of such inspections, ”the inspecting agency shall specifically check the discharge points of the industrial effluents, the efficient functioning of the ETPs/CETPs, etc,” as the bench’s order states.
To further ensure that polluting units are immediately stymied from doing so, the court has also directed that “two responsible officials of a particular rank” of Torrent Power Company Limited and the Government Electric Company supplying electricity to Ahmedabad city including the industrial areas as well as Ahmedabad rural areas shall remain present with the Task Force members during the inspection in the respective areas and upon directions that may be issued by the members of the Task Force, “the electricity connection of such erring set-up/industrial unit shall be disconnected immediately and no re-connection shall be made nor any new connection shall be granted under any other name on the existing premises”.
Empowering the task force members to assume authority, the court has stated that the members can choose to publish in the newspapers the details of the set-up/industry along with the name of the owner running a polluting unit “guilty of releasing untreated effluent wastewater into the sewer line” of the AMC.
To actively disincentive industries from polluting rivers, the court has stated, “If any particular industry is caught flouting the norms or is found indulging in dubious practice or methods of discharging their trade effluents, such industry shall not be permitted to participate in any industrial fair, public private partnership events, etc.”
Impleading the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) as a party to the litigation, the court has stipulated that “steps shall be taken by the GIDC to provide drainage connections to the industries” so as to reduce the problem of industrial contamination.
Meanwhile addressing GPCB’s issue where it has complained of manpower shortage that leaves the body unequipped to discharge its statutory functions, the court has directed the state government and the AMC “to provide adequate manpower” to GPCB “to facilitate the Board to undertake the necessary operations in accordance with the directions issued by this Court.”
The court is expected to take up the matter for further hearing on October 21.
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