NGT pulls up T.N. on pollution of rivers

The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal has come down heavily on the Tamil Nadu government and is even considering imposing a ₹100 crore fine in damages for its repeated failure to prevent pollution of the Adyar and Cooum rivers and the Buckingham Canal. The tribunal has summoned the Chief Secretary to inform it about the progress made in cleaning the rivers.

In an order passed on an application filed by Jawaharlal Shanmugam, the Bench comprising the Chairman Adarsh Kumar Goel, Judicial member Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Nagin Nanda said,“There is pollution of the rivers and there has been repeated failure of the State of Tamil Nadu in its duties. Remedial action is required.”

The Bench went on to observe that taking into account the track record of repeated failures in the past, the present stand of the government of Tamil Nadu that it would implement the eco-restoration plan within eight years, and that major activities will be completed in three years, should not be taken at face value.

“In view of consistent failure of the State so far, we are tentatively inclined to require the State of Tamil Nadu to pay a sum of ₹100 crore as compensation for damage to the environment to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for past failures… The amount may be used for restoration of the environment.”

Call for committee

However, before taking a final view, the Bench directed the constitution of a joint committee comprising of representatives of CPCB, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Madras School of Economics, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. The committee will assess the causes and quantum of damage to the environment as well as further steps required for restoration of environment, which are not covered in the action plan, and submit its report within three months.

The Chief Secretary is required to appear before the Tribunal on April 23. “We direct the Chief Secretary to be ready with the progress in the present matter which is impacting a large number of inhabitants living in the catchments of these river systems. CPCB may collect holistic data for other stretches comprehensively so that further action to remedy pollution can be effectively taken. We also direct that the committee headed by the Chief Secretary may continue to meet fortnightly for a period of next three months and thereafter on a monthly basis to review progress in the matter,” the members said. On behalf of the State it was submitted that periodic review is undertaken by the Chief Secretary and Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) and encroachers would be provided houses for which a loan would be raised from the Asian Development Bank. A separate action plan was also filed by the Public Works Department stating that the CRRT had undertaken strenuous efforts for restoration of the Cooum and Adayar Rivers in two phases.

Projects worth ₹93.97 crore and ₹104.31 crore had commenced or are to be taken up soon.

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