The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday asked thermal power plants to take prompt steps for scientific disposal of fly ash, warning that the failure to do so would entail a penalty.
A bench of NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice S P Wangdi said difficulties pointed out by the plants are of no relevance as the same are to be resolved by the administration and not by the victims of pollution whose rights are being affected.
"Environment cannot be violated against statutory norms. Violation of statutory notifications needs to be visited sternly in terms of enforcing the same, recovering compensation and prosecuting the violators. Whatever be the individual circumstances, it cannot be a ground to disobey law and to commit criminal offence under the Water Act, Air Act and EP Act," the bench said.
The bench said there is no discretion available with this tribunal to dispense with the mandate of law and statutory provisions are binding on every thermal power plant without any exception.
"The thermal power plants may take prompt steps for scientific disposal of fly ash in accordance with the statutory notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the provisions of Environment Protection Act requiring 100 per cent utilisation and disposal of fly ash," the bench said.
The tribunal said the non-compliant plants will have to pay environmental compensation which would be determined from the cut-off date of December 31, 2017 as stipulated in the notification issued by the Union Environment Ministry.
"Central Pollution Control Board may accordingly compute and levy environmental compensation in accordance with its formula with respect to individual plants in accordance with law and submit compliance report to the tribunal," the bench said.
The tribunal also directed a committee comprising Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and IIT, Roorkee to assess the environmental damage with regard to the breach sites at Vidhyanchal plant and Essar plant in Singrauli area and submit its recommendation within three months.
"CPCB shall be at liberty to engage any other technical expert for this purpose. The committee comprising of Collector, CPCB and Member Secretary of MP State Pollution Control Board may assess the damage with regard to the breach sites at Vidhyanchal and Essar in Singrauli area to the crop and agricultural productivity and ensure effective restoration/remedy of affected sites within three months," the bench said.
It also said its order is subject to proceedings pending before the Supreme Court and where stay is operative, this order will not operate till stay continues.
The NGT then posted matter for next hearing on July 8.
The NGT was hearing pleas filed by Shantanu Sharma, Anupam Raghav, Sandplast (India) Ltd and others seeking utilisation of the fly ash as per 1999, 2003 and 2009 notifications issued by the Environment Ministry.
As per the notifications, fly ash can be used in "construction activity such as in road laying, embankments or used as land fill to reclaim low lying areas including backfilling in abandoned mines or pitheads or for any such other use as permitted strictly in accordance with the provisions of notifications".
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