Courts Update Supreme Court expresses displeasure over high pollution along Mumbai...

Supreme Court expresses displeasure over high pollution along Mumbai coast

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New Delhi Aug 13(ILNS): The Supreme Court, today, expressed its displeasure over the dilapidated state of affairs concerning the extent of high pollution in the coastal waters of Mumbai on account of operational deficiencies, delay in connecting 100% sewer networks, lack of toilets, and no short term plan and suggestions for improving the quality of the coast and the Arabian Sea by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. 

The Court was hearing the appeal filed by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai against the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal which had imposed a heavy cost on it for non-compliance of its previous orders and had further directed the Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal, IAS to be present physically before the Tribunal on August 28, 2021, so as to explain why coercive measures under section 25 of the NGT Act, 2010 read with section 51 CPC (Code of Civil Procedure) may not be taken to ensure compliance of the order of the tribunal. 

The Division Bench comprised of Justice DY Chandrachud & Justice MR Shah today has stayed the order passed by the Green Tribunal to that extent and directed the Municipal Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to file an affidavit before the Tribunal within two weeks in compliance with the orders passed by the NGT. 

Justice Chandrachud remarked, “the issue which has been raised, is ‘indeed serious’ since it relates to discharge of untreated waste directly into the sea. The Municipal Corporation must take a good faith effort to demonstrate as to what steps it has taken by following the orders passed by the Green Tribunal.”

“The protection of the Environment is a matter of high concern,” said Justice DY Chandrachud. The bench noted that A reasonable time has been granted to the Municipal Corporation by the NGT. With regard to that, “We direct Within a period of two weeks the Corporation shall file in an affidavit in compliance with the orders passed by the NGT,” said the Court. 

The Court further said, “To ensure compliance and effective measures. The National Green Tribunal may consider the affidavit and the steps taken by the Municipal Corporation. Till then, no coercive action should be taken against the Municipal Commissioner as per paragraph seven of the order. Municipal Corporation should take a good faith effort to demonstrate as to what steps have been taken. There is a stay on direction passed in Para seven of the NGT till they disclose the NGT.”  

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation submitted that the Directions which were passed by the Tribunal are extremely harsh. 

Justice Chandrachud replied – You have to also satisfy us that what steps you have taken? We want you to first tell us that what is the status of your compliance. Mumbai is the most polluted city in the Country, all Rivers, creeks have been destroyed. 

Justice MR Shah said, Let them satisfy the tribunal what steps they have taken.

Rohatgi submitted, There are problems and we are struggling. 

Justice DY Chandrachud said Execution has been filed before the Tribunal. 

Rohatgi said, Give me three weeks of time. They (NGT) have imposed 100s of crores of penalty. 

Justice DY Chandrachud asked For how many Sewage Treatment Plant (STPs) tenders have been issued. 

Senior Advocate Anitha Shenoy appearing for the respondents Vanshakti Public Trust and Its Director Stalin Dayanand has submitted that the issue of untreated waste, in terms of standards, no concrete step has been taken by the Municipal Corporation. Even after the order of the tribunal, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), that about 997million liters of waste going untreated. 

“The Tribunal has imposed Environmental costs for the past damage to Mumbai’s coastal environment on the Municipal Corporation for failure to implement Bioremediation and phytoremediation measures and continuing damage on account of operational deficiencies by not connecting sewer networks,” she said. 

Further, she stated, “There are Operational deficiencies in Working of Municipal Corporation, even the present network is not working properly. With references to standards, we have calibrated the standards from 2015 onwards, there is no change in standards and there is a dilution now. It is shocking is that in 2011 the direction has been issued to them to complete their sewage system by installing STPs, but nothing has been done since. Admittedly they are discharging the untreated waste. They even don’t pay money to the CPCB despite being the richest Municipal Corporation in whole Asia and has an annual budget of more than Rs 39,000/- Crores with additional reserves of Rs 50,952/- Crores.”

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has levied a penalty of ₹109.6 Crores as one time plus ₹9.25 Crores per month on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as environmental compensation, till bio-remediation or phytoremediation measures in each of 185 drains are installed. 

This comes after an execution application filed before the tribunal by Vanashakti, a city-based NGO. In October last year, in response to a petition by Vanashakti, NGT had rapped the civic body over continued pollution of the city’s creeks and water bodies and had imposed an environmental compensation./ILNS/KR/SNG

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