The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered the state government to ban the use of hot mix plants and burning fossil fuel for road construction in Kolkata and Howrah to curtail air pollution. It directed the urban local bodies to adopt more environment-friendly methods for the purpose.
The bans, however, do not feature as a recommendation by an expert committees that had been formed to look into the question of dealing with air pollution. Meanwhile, the green court reprimanded the state government for citing lack of funds for its non-compliance in these recommendations.
The orders came in the hearing of a 2005 case in which the petitioner Subhash Dutta claimed increase in nighttime air pollution in Kolkata.
“I had realised that at night, when there was practically no vehicular traffic, around 50,000 heavy goods vehicles traversed the city without following any environmental norms causing a good deal of air pollution. Later, this case expanded to include daytime emissions in both Kolkata and Howrah cities,” said Dutta.
In 2007, responding to the petition, the Calcutta High Court had also ordered that vehicles over 15 years of age be phased out. Dutta claimed that the state government did not follow through on this order.
The case was transferred to the NGT, which was formed in 2013.
In February this year, the NGT set up an expert committee to look in to the matter. It comprised membes of the Central Pollution Control Board, the West Bengal State Pollution Control Board and Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.
It submitted its recommendations in June (see box).
“However most of these recommendations, many of which have been made earlier, have not been implemented. There has been a high level of non-compliance by the state,” Datta said.
The NGT observed that the petitioner had pointed to a number of reasons for deteriorating air quality and that the response of the state government for “non-compliance” is unsatisfactory.
“… Hot mix plants appears to be used rampantly for road repairs and also use of fossil fuel in the heart of the city of Kolkata adding tremendously to the already polluted air. One of the primary reasons given for delay in compliance with the directions is the shortage of funds. We are not convinced by this. It is settled that want of budgetary provisions is not grounds for delaying mitigation of environmental mandates,” the tribunal order reads. “We, therefore, direct the state respondents, state public works department and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to ensure that the use of hot mix plants and burning fossil fuels is discontinued for road construction and repair and that the urbal local bodies adopt more environment friendly and cleaner methods for the purpose.”
The next hearing for the case has been scheduled for October 1.