The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed the Kamarajar Port Ltd (KPL) and the North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS) for failing to clear the pollution caused by them in the Ennore Creek.
The Bench in particular came down heavily on the NCTPS, observing if State-owned industries themselves don’t comply with norms, it will send a wrong message to other industries.
The Bench also imposed an interim penalty of ₹8.34 crore on KPL as environmental compensation and ordered the port to deposit the amount with the Central Pollution Control Board within two months.
Based on a report submitted by a joint committee, the bench observed that “the violation still continues. Till the entire dump has been removed and damage caused to the environment is restored to its original position, M/s. Kamarajar Port Ltd., is liable to pay compensation”.
The Bench of Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta also directed the committee to look at measures to remediate the Creek and the cost required for it.
The Central Pollution Control Board which submitted its findings before the Tribunal found through satellite images, and site visits in late 2019 that the dredged material dumped in the nine dumping sites falling under CRZ notified area have not yet been fully removed.
“The mangroves in the area may be lost due to dumping in the nine sites. Currently, the mangroves in the area are very thin. The port authority has not adopted any scientific methods to remediate the soil or to restore the soil / mangroves to regional conditions. Though efforts were made to remove the dump falling with CRZ area, it is observed that it is not fully removed and dredged material is still lying in the CRZ area,” the report said.
The report also found high concentration levels of elements such as magnesium, aluminium, iron, potassium, chromium, lead and calcium in the soil in all the dumpsites used by KPL. The committee found that the high concentrations were found at a depth of 100 cm below the ground “indicating that the metals have leached from the dredged material dump sites”.
While the Committee pointed to improper handling of raw material, coal, iron ore, and other products by KPL and fly ash handling by NCTPS as primary reasons, it also held that the Ennore Creek is a recipient of domestic waste water from small scale industries, garages from Chennai city and marine outfall from industries are located in the Manali Industrial Estate near the port.
“Due to these reasons the soil near to the shore may be contaminated with chemical elements and heavy metals.”
With regard to the NCTPS, the Bench criticised the Committee for not making any attempt to consider the remediation measure to be undertaken and for relying only on the timeline provided by NCTPS to remove the fly ash.
It was submitted before the Tribunal that the PWD had already commenced dredging of the Buckingham Canal and deposited the dredged ash and silt on the banks of the Canal. A timeline extending till 2022 was submitted to clear the Creek and the Canal of fly ash.
“As per the Fly Ash Disposal Notification 2017, the time line provided for 100% disposal is already over and no further extension has been given by the MoEF in this regard. So non-disposal of fly ash within the stipulated time will amount to serious violation,” the Bench said and slammed the CPCB for not even mentioning whether the direction issued by the Principal Bench over compensation has been complied with or not by the NCTPS.
The Bench held that the CPCB will have to fix the timeline for remediation than relying on the timeline provided by the NCTPS.
“If the State owned industries itself are not complying with the directions and if they are violating the norms under the hope that they will not be proceeded against and only directions will be issued to rectify the deficiencies then it will give a wrong message to other industries as well who may be tempted to violate the norms,” the Bench said.