The Supreme Court on Friday lifted the “status quo” ordered by it last year in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and said that “there shall be no impediment for the authorities to consider pending environmental clearances which are necessary to secure essential amenities within” the Zone.
A bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant concluded that the “the interim order dated 22nd March, 2018, directing maintenance of status quo, was passed to ensure timely submission of the ‘Vision Plan’ by the State of UP” and the same had already been complied with.
The directions came on an application by the Uttar Pradesh government seeking a clarification of the March 22 order.
The bench added that in view of this compliance, “the State and other statutory authorities are free to consider requests for relocating eco-friendly, non-polluting industrial units, subject to them meticulously complying with environmental laws and all norms/conditions laid down by this Court…”.
The bench underlined that “concurrence with the Central Empowerment Committee and opinion of NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) shall also be necessary before according such permissions”.
The SC order further said “only those small, micro and macro-level industries, which are both non-polluting and eco-friendly, and which have necessary clearances from all statutory authorities as well as concurrence of the Central Empowerment Committee and NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute), can be set-up within the notified industrial zone”.
The order added that there will be an “embargo on granting clearances to and/or shifting of any heavy industry until a final decision is taken on the vision document”.
In it’s application, the state said that the first draft of the Vision Plan, prepared by the School of Planning and Architecture, had already been filed with the SC Registry on July 24, 2018 and that it had also given its suggestions on April 3, 2019.
It stated that due to the status quo order, various authorities were facing difficulties in deciding on environmental clearances, causing hardship to both the government and the public.
The plea urged the court to permit the state government and other statutory authorities to grant environmental clearances necessary for essential public facilities including drinking water supplies, sewage treatment plants, drainage systems, solid waste disposal units, common effluent treatment plants, biomedical waste treatment facilities and waste-to-energy plants, among others.
Taking note, the SC said “in light of the aforementioned amenities being crucial for securing basic living conditions of TTZ residents, we are of the opinion that there need not be any impediment for granting necessary clearances for the same. We are conscious of the fact that citizens have a fundamental right to such essential amenities; and how counter-intuitively, not allowing construction of such basic infrastructure can itself create new polluting waste and threaten the environment”.
The order noted that on December 8, 2017, the court, while hearing the matter, had “identified an urgent public interest in preparing a future-oriented comprehensive Vision Plan to preserve the Taj and its environs, being the Taj Trapezium Zone…which is spread over six districts of Uttar Pradesh and one district (Bharatpur) in Rajasthan”.
Directions were issued to prepare the plan in consultation with all stake holders as well as experts in heritage, environment, wildlife and pollution prevention.
On March 22, 2018, the state informed the court that a Project Committee had been constituted for the purpose and that the first draft would take approximately four months to be ready. Following the submission, the court ordered that “until then, there will be a status quo in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ).”