A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a hazard to public health which has to be safeguarded by installing recovery devices.
Vapour recovery device is an instrument to capture displaced vapours that emerge from inside a vehicle's fuel tank when petrol or diesel is dispensed into it.
"It is undisputed that release of VOCs is a hazard to the public health which is to be safeguarded by installing VRDs/VRS, under the Precautionary Principle and Principle of Sustainable Development, no activity can be allowed to be carried out resulting in damage to the public health," said the bench also comprising Justice S P Wangdi.
"In this view of the matter, we do not find any justification to grant further extension of time. In fact, there may be issue of recovering compensation for damage to the environment already caused by release of VOC," the bench.
The green panel said the difficulties in procuring devices or delay in granting approvals by the authorities cannot be a ground for continuing any activity affecting public health without safety standards.
The NGT had earlier directed the companies to install vapour recovery devices at all fuel stations by October 31 but they had moved a plea seeking extension, saying that grant of approvals for vapour recovery devices was a time consuming process as they had to be imported.
The tribunal had directed the oil companies -- Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd -- to install Stage-I and Stage-II vapour recovery devices by October 31 and asked the CPCB and the Ministry of Petroleum to issue directions and ensure that necessary steps are taken by all the concerned.
The tribunal was hearing the plea by advocate Aditya N Prasad and Delhi resident Vallari Sheel, who contended that petroleum products at fuel stations contribute significantly to air pollution, and sought directions to stop release of volatile compounds during transfer of petroleum products.
The plea referred to a study conducted at various petrol pumps of Delhi which has found that the level of toxic fumes containing pollutants known as VOC was several thousand times higher than the permissible limit.
The plea said: "Petroleum products at fuel stations contain traces of benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) all of which are highly toxic in nature. BTX are also potentially toxic air pollutants among other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and have been subjected to significant investigations/research in western countries as well as in India.
"BTX is present in both exhaust emissions from vehicles and evaporative emissions at the fuel delivery outlets. It is pertinent to note that exposure to high level of BTX causes neuro-toxic symptoms. Persistent exposure to high levels of BTX may cause injury to human bone marrow, DNA damage in mammalian cells and damage to the immune system."
Recently, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee had directed all the oil companies to ensure installation of vapour recovery system at petrol pumps in the city.
"Direct the respondents to install Stage I and Stage II vapour recovery devices at all fuel stations, distribution centres, terminals, railway loading/unloading facilities and airports in the National Capital Territory of Delhi," the plea had said.
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