Srinagar: National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slashed a penalty of Rs 3 crore on the erring officers of the J&K government and polluters for not taking steps to control pollution and illegal mining in Doodh Ganga and Mamath Kul in Budgam.
The petition ‘Raja Muzaffar Bhat versus the Government of J&K’ was listed before the Principal Bench of NGT on Tuesday.
The NGT order said that the State be held liable to pay an interim compensation of Rs 1 crore each under all the three heads (solid waste, liquid waste, and Illegal mining) which is to be deposited in a separate account of Deputy Commissioner Budgam to be utilised for the restoration of the environment.
The bench headed by Justice A K Goel said, “The violations found include dumping of waste on the banks of the river, discharge of untreated sewage into the river, unregulated illegal mining activities, and failure to protect the embankments of the river.”
The NGT order reads: “Once such serious violations have been found by the State authorities, failure to take stringent action shows apathy to the obligation of the State under the constitution, particularly the Public Trust Doctrine of ensuring clean environment by protecting rivers and other natural assets.
The attitude of indefinitely waiting for funds from outside agencies is not merely ignorance of the law but the failure of responsibility. The environment being part of Right to Life under the constitution, such pleas are legally untenable and impermissible. It is for the State to arrange resources for its inalienable and basic responsibility.
On that pretext, damage to the environment cannot be allowed to take place or to continue. The timeline laid down under the judgment of the Supreme Court in Paryavaran Suraksha (Supra) for ensuring setting up of all treatment equipment is March 31, 2018, and after the said date, for any failure, the Secretary to the Government is liable to be prosecuted in terms of the judgment of the Supreme Court.
The tribunal has also issued directions for taking disciplinary action and payment of compensation for continued failure to manage waste to the detriment of the environment and public health.
We find that neither the dumping of solid waste nor discharge of untreated sewage has been prevented nor illegal mining stopped and nor legacy waste cleared for which statutory timelines have already expired.
The State is accordingly held liable to pay an interim compensation of Rs 1 crore each under all the three heads which may be deposited in a separate account to be utilised for the restoration of the environment.”
According to the order, the amount may be deposited with the District Magistrate, Budgam, and spent as per the plan approved by the Chief Secretary, consistent with the District Action Plan of the concerned area.
“It will be open to the State to recover the amount from the polluters and erring officers under the law. For illegal mining, the loss caused to the State in the form of value of minerals as well as the loss caused to the environment for undertaking such activity without requisite clearances needs to be recovered by the State PCB in light of judgment of the Supreme Court inter-alia in Goa Foundation versus Union of India and others (2014) 6 SCC 590 and Common Cause versus Union of India and others (2017) 9 SCC 499. It is also open to the State PCB to initiate prosecution against the violators,” the NGT order said.
The report is signed by the Additional Secretary to the Government, Housing and Urban Development Department.
The petitioner Bhat said, “I have been urging the government, especially district administration Budgam, SMC, and Rural Development Department to check illegal garbage dumping and uncontrolled mining in Doodh Ganga. Municipal Council Budgam is dumping waste near Mamath Kul, SMC pumps liquid waste into Doodh Ganga at Chanapora, Pamposh Colony, Barzulla, and Bulbul Bagh. Huge pump stations are being constructed by SMC to facilitate pumping of more liquid waste into Doodh Ganga.”