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‘Serious concerns’, Bombay HC says as PIL wants biomedical waste plant shut over toxic emissions

The Govandi New Sangam Welfare Society’s petition says the plant was started without obtaining environmental clearance and holding any public consultation, and wants it relocated at least 500 m away from any residential society.

bombay hcThe court will hear the matter next on January 16. (File)

The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that “serious concerns” were raised in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition that sought permanent closure of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) biomedical waste treatment plant at Govandi citing the threat posed by toxic emissions it releases. The court sought replies from the Maharashtra government, the state pollution control board and the BMC before the next hearing.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja was hearing the petition filed by the Govandi New Sangam Welfare Society, which referred to the closure notice that the board had issued to the plant citing its failure to comply with rules. The petition sought environmental compensation and also wanted at least half of the waste shifted to some other plant in Navi Mumbai, Thane or Kalyan-Dombivli, and the Govandi plant shifted permanently in a time-bound manner.

The petition stated that the residents were facing health issues caused by the emissions from the plant run by SMS Envoclean Private Limited, adding that almost the entire M (East) ward of the BMC was affected by the toxic emissions. It wanted the plant shifted to a location that is at least 500 m away from any residential society, as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board.

As per the petition, the plant started operations in 2009 without any environment clearance and without following due process under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 and no public consultation was held.

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The petitioner said that an RTI reply on the medical records of people infected with TB, respiratory diseases and lung cancer in the M (East) ward had revealed a concerning trend that showed at least 4,500-5,000 people were diagnosed with TB every year and the number of deaths due to the disease from 2013 till May 2022 were 1,877.

The petition also referred to a 2013 judgment of the Delhi High Court that held that medical-waste incinerators are the leading source of dioxins and mercury in the environment and that there is a link between incinerator emissions and the adverse health impacts on incinerator workers and residents living around them. The plea said the Delhi court had directed the shifting of a plant within six months and urged the Bombay High Court to pass a similar direction.

The incinerators do not have dioxin-and furan-controlling devices and therefore it is clear that harmful emissions are being released daily, affecting the residents’ health as there is no buffer zone of 500 m to minimise the health impact, the petition added.

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“This strongly makes the entire residential area in Govandi situated next to the biomedical waste treatment plant resemble an open gas chamber,” the petition said.

The court will hear the matter next on January 16.

First published on: 05-12-2022 at 15:49 IST
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