The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench has dismissed the Karnataka government’s appeal seeking relief from depositing Rs 500 crore in environmental compensation which the tribunal imposed on it in October for failing to maintain Chandapura lake. After taking suo moto cognizance of an Indian Express report on the issue, the NGT on October 10 imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 500 crore on the Karnataka government.
The NGT took suo moto cognizance of The Indian Express report – ‘Lakes of Bengaluru: Industrial effluents, raw sewage; stinky tale of Chandapura lake’ published on November 21, 2021. Following this, the tribunal constituted a seven-member joint committee of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), National Wetland Authority, State Wetland Authority and the district magistrate, Bengaluru to ascertain the facts with regards to the violation of buffer zone, solid waste management guidelines at Chandapura lake in Anekal taluk.
“The application (by the state government) mentions that the State Authorities will require 3-4 years to take remedial measures which will not justify direction to deposit the amount of Rs. 500 Crores immediately as the amount is to be spent in 3-4 years. We do not find any merit in the application. Massive failure of the State Authorities has been noticed earlier which is not only violative of statutory mandate but also timelines laid down in the binding judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Paryavaran Suraksha vs. Union of India, (2017) which have been required to be monitored by this Tribunal,” the NGT said.
The Principal Bench of the NGT headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel noted that the state was taking liberty in fixing its own timelines in violation of those fixed by the Supreme Court.
“We note that the State is taking liberty in fixing its own timelines in violation of those fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and violating law with impunity. It is also not willing to abide by directions of this Tribunal on untenable plea raised in this application. The compensation amount which has been fixed is for the violations which have already taken place, including the violations of direction of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Paryavaran Suraksha (Supra). For further delay, the compensation liability may have to be fixed separately. The plea that the amount is to be spent in a few years and therefore, no liability has accrued is patently untenable,” the bench said.
The NGT said the mushrooming of ‘Red Category’ industries (industries having pollution index score of 60 and above) in the Jigani-Bommasandra industrial area and the discharge of effluents into lakes in violation of the zero liquid discharge (ZLD) policy of the government have resulted in an increase in pollution.
“Under the ZLD water management system, no untreated water is supposed to be released into lakes. However, untreated effluents from industries continuously enter stormwater drains and flow into the lakes of Anekal. There are around 195 red category industries in the Jigani-Bommasandra area which include drug manufacturing companies, electroplating, powder coating, pickling, heat treatment, galvanizing, casting, lead-acid battery manufacturing, used oil reprocessing, lead smelting and chemical industries,” the NGT said.