‘Get Ef­flu­ent Treat­ment Plants Run­ning in 3 Mths’

CJI sug­gests govt to come up with a cess to cover run­ning ex­penses of th­ese plants

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Sa­man­waya.Rau­tray @times­group.com

New Delhi: In a huge step that would curb in­dus­trial ef­flu­ents from be­ing re­leased un­treated into wa­ter bod­ies and check wa­ter pol­lu­tion, the Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day di­rected all in­dus­trial units to en­sure that they have their pri­mary ef­flu­ent treat­ment plants (ETPs) up and run­ning in three months or have their power con­nec­tions cut off to en­sure com­pli­ance.

Those units which re­lease ef­flu­ents above the per­mis­si­ble norm would also meet with a sim­i­lar fate, the court said. They would then have to prove to the re­spec­tive state Pol­lu­tion Boards that they have re­solved the prob­lem be­fore they are al­lowed to re­sume op­er­a­tions.

“Ev­ery­thing is dif­fi­cult, but hu­man lives are bad. We must start some­where, start mov­ing,” a bench, com­pris­ing Chief Jus­tice of In­dia JS Khe­har and Jus­tices DY Chan­drachud and San­jay Kis­han Kaul, ob­served at the be­gin­ning of the court pro­ceed­ings when it ran into op­po­si­tion from some states about its pro­posed intervention in this field.

The bench also or­dered that in­dus­trial ar­eas have their com­mon ETPs in place within 3 years or face sim­i­lar ac­tion. This would al­low states to ac­quire land for th­ese plants, in­clud­ing space for zero-dis­charge plants. The state pol­lu­tion con­trol boards and en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­taries will en­sure this and the re­gional benches of the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) mon­i­tor the progress. Th­ese CETPs are funded 50% by the Cen­tre, 25% by state gov­ern­ments and an­other 25% by banks. Th­ese bank loans are then re­cov­ered from the users.

Se­nior ad­vo­cate Colin Gon­salves, ap- pear­ing for PIL pe­ti­tioner Paryavaran Su­rak­sha Samiti, ar­gued that lack of funds was one crit­i­cal fac­tor why th­ese CETPs fell into dis­re­pair over the years. This prompted the CJI to sug­gest to the gov­ern­ment that it come up with a cess or sur­charge to cover their run­ning ex­penses. “Users must pay,” the CJI sug­gested. He asked the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment to come up with a scheme this fi­nan­cial year which can come into ef­fect from the next. Lo­cal bod­ies in states were asked to ex­plore sim­i­lar op­tions which would in­volve plans of re­cov­er­ing the amounts from in­dus­trial and do­mes­tic users. In case, states did not evolve norms, the CJI said, they would have to cater for all the funds re­quired.

While un­der­tak­ing this mas­sive ex­er­cise, state PCBs were di­rected to tar­get cities and towns and vil­lages which dis­charge ef­flu­ents and sewage into rivers and wa­ter bod­ies. Sewage treat­ment plants would sim­i­larly be set up in the same time­line, the CJI ob­served. The bench also di­rected all states to copy the Gu­jarat, MP, UP model of real-time mon­i­tor­ing of such dis­charge through sen­sors.

The CJI also asked all states to ini­ti­ate civil and crim­i­nal ac­tion un­der the law against the de­fault­ing units, won­der­ing why not a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual or com­pany had so far been pros­e­cuted for this.

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