NGT concern over hill states to file report on forest fires

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has showed concern over recurring forest fires in the hill states and directed them to inform it about the steps taken by them to control such incidents.

A bench headed by acting NGT Chairperson Jawad Rahim impleaded the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal in the case.

It also issued notices to these hill states and asked them to file an affidavit stating measures taken by them to check forest fires, which cause considerable damage to the environment.

“Issue notice to the aforesaid states and who are now impleaded with a direction to them to file an affidavit as to what steps they have taken with regard to National Action Plan for forest fire management at state level. It shall be done within two weeks,” the bench said.

During the hearing, the Uttarakhand government told the tribunal that a state forest fire management plan has been finalised and the details of the action taken are mentioned in the report submitted to it.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on July 30.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Friends which had alleged that a “nexus of timber mafia, some greedy villagers and officials” was suspected to be behind the fire incidents which have caused severe degradation of the environment.

In its plea, the NGO had sought an inquiry by judicial authority into the reasons for the fire incidents. It also demanded a ban on the practice of burning of woods for road works.

It had alleged that Uttarakhand government has not taken any “effective step to control the fire” due to which almost the entire hilly area was affected.

The plea had claimed that more than “1,300 incidents of forest blaze have taken plan in the present season and more than 2,600 hectares of forest area has been ruined” in the state.

NGT notice to Centre, UP govt on plea alleging threat to swamp deer in Hastinapur Sanctuary

A plea alleging threat to wildlife especially to the swamp deer due to human intervention in the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary has prompted the National Green Tribunal to seek response from the Centre and UP government.

A bench headed by Acting NGT chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, National Board for Wildlife, National Biodiversity Authority, Uttar Pradesh government and UP State Biodiversity Board while seeking their reply before July 23.

The tribunal was hearing a plea field by advocate Gaurav Bansal seeking protection and restitution of the biodiversity and ecosystem of the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bansal, in its petition has stated that recently the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has done a survey of the sanctuary which found that wildlife including swamp deer is fighting for its existence.

According to the plea, WII in its report has also stated that due to high human presence and forest fire, endangered species like swamp deer, hog deer and Gangetic grasslands were facing difficulties in survival.

“The applicant has learnt from the red list of threatened species generated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources published on January 10, 2015 that the population of swamp deer (Barasingha) is assessed as vulnerable because the estimated total population lies between 3,500 and 5,100 animals and also its protection status is not secure.

“It is pertinent to mention here that the report generated revealed the important fact that the species of swamp deer is assumed to decline by at least 10 per cent over 24 years due to habitat conversion and degradation,” the plea said.

Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over an area of 2,073 sq km along the banks of Ganga in five forest divisions –Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Hapur and Amroha.

NGT directs MoEF to consider mining plans of UP, Haryana

NGT directs MoEF to consider mining plans of UP, Haryana
NGT directs MoEF to consider mining plans of UP, Haryana

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to “expeditiously” consider the mining plans submitted by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said that extraction of minerals like sand and gravel should be strictly carried out as per MoEF guidelines.

“Both the state governments have submitted their mining plans…. We direct Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to consider the approval of the plans while informing the officers from the Ministry of Mines. This must be done very expeditiously as this matter is very urgent in nature,” the bench said.

During the hearing, the MoEF told the green panel that they have filed an additional affidavit suggesting that UP government should be permitted to carry on the mining activity along with Haryana, subject to the guidelines.

The matter is listed for hearing on August 17.

The directions came during hearing of a plea by environment activists Gurpreet Singh Bagga and others who had moved NGT against alleged rampant illegal mining of minor minerals in Saharanpur and the riverbed of Yamuna.

According to the applicants, “a handful of mining lease holders were treating the entire district as mining area irrespective of what is mentioned in their mining permit and the environmental clearance”.

The NGT had earlier cracked the whip on illegal sand mining and extraction of minor minerals in Saharanpur district of UP while slapping a fine of Rs 50 crore on five lease holders for carrying out excessive unauthorised mining resulting in damage and degradation of environment.

The green panel had also prohibited stone crushers and mining of minor minerals like bajri (gravel) and boulders in Yamunanagar and Saharanpur districts and other villages situated on the floodplains of Yamuna.

( Source – PTI )

Conservation of wetlands: SC imposes Rs 50K as costs on MoEF

Conservation of wetlands: SC imposes Rs 50K as costs on MoEF
Conservation of wetlands: SC imposes Rs 50K as costs on MoEF

The Supreme Court today slapped Rs 50,000 as costs on the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for not complying with its order on identification and inventorising over two lakh wetlands in the country and notifying the new rules.

The apex court had in February directed the Centre to notify Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 on or before June 30 this year.

A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.

A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta directed the Centre to file its detail affidavit by July 20 and imposed Rs 50,000 as costs for non-compliance of its earlier order.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for petitioner M K Balakrishnan, informed the court that no such rules have been notified nor wetlands have been inventorised.

The Centre had in April informed the apex court that it has constituted Central Wetland Regulatory Authority (CWRA), but the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had not nominated an officer not below the rank of a joint secretary to the authority.

The top court had directed that the two ministries to make the nomination at the earliest so that the CWRA could carry on with its mandate under the law.

It had also expressed its concern over a huge expenditure of Rs 945.95 crore on the various works related to the wetlands and said that the activities shown were extremely general in nature.

It had also directed the various high courts to monitor the management of 26 sites identified in the Ramsar Convention of 1971 on wetlands till there was some visible improvement as these were international heritage. A Ramsar site is a wetland of international importance under the convention.

The apex court had requested the chief justices of different high courts to treat the affidavit as a suo motu PIL and, if necessary, appoint an amicus curiae to assist the court so as to ensure that the Ramsar Convention sites within their jurisdiction were properly maintained.

The apex court had in February directed the Centre to come up with new rules by June 30 to preserve ecologically crucial wetlands.

Central agencies have identified over two lakh wetlands in the country through satellite imagery made by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The ISRO had in 2011 prepared a national wetlands atlas on the basis of satellite imagary and 2,01,503 wetlands were mapped.

The apex court had asked the Centre to inventorise all 2,01,503 wetlands to protect them and notify in consultation with the state governments.

It had said that the court was compelled to issue the deadline as the matter had been pending with the Centre for the last almost a year and there had to be some finality to the publication of the rules.

The top court, which has been examining the matter sinmce 2001, had emphasised the importance of the conservation of wetland, saying it was of “immense ecological importance” and there was no justification for the Centre not taking any prompt action.

( Source – PTI )

Finalise emission norms for diesel locomotives: NGT to MoEF

Finalise emission norms for diesel locomotives: NGT to MoEF
Finalise emission norms for diesel locomotives: NGT to MoEF

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to finalise the emission standards for diesel locomotives within two months.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar passed the order after the counsel for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) refuted its own earlier submission that the emission norms, prepared by it, have been sent to the MoEF for approval.

The lawyer appearing for CPCB told the tribunal that the statement made by him on May 22 was not correct and the facts were not brought to the notice of the tribunal.

The CPCB counsel said the emission standards for diesel locomotives was still to be finalised and they would send to the MoEF within four weeks.

The submission came in the wake of the green panel’s direction to set standards in this regard and ensure that the railway locomotive engines don’t cause pollution.

“MoEF should finalise the same within four weeks thereafter. We make it clear that in the event of default we would be compelled to pass orders while imposing cost upon the defaulting departments,” the bench, also comprising Expert Member Bikram Singh Sajwan, said and fixed the matter for hearing on July 25.

The CPCB’s interim report, titled “Exhaust Emission Benchmarks for Diesel Locomotives on Indian Railways”, aims to fix standards and protocols for the sector to achieve the targets submitted by India under the Paris climate change agreement.

According to the report, the contribution of emissions from the transport sector on the whole has risen 3.5 times since 1990 to stand at 250 million tonne carbon dioxide, or 13.5 per cent of the total emissions in 2013.

The Railways contributed 9.7 per cent of this figure (24.7 million tonne). Globally, however, only 3.5 per cent of the emissions from the transport sector are attributed to the rail sector, CPCB’s report said.

“The changes in the energy sources allowed for a reduction of the share of rail transport carbon dioxide emissions from 24 per cent in 1990 to less than 10 per cent in 2013, while rail activity doubled in the same period,” the draft report by CPCB said.

Earlier, the tribunal had directed MoEF to hold a meeting with the CPCB and Railways and submit a report on emission standards for diesel locomotive within six weeks.

However, when the matter came up for hearing, the Environment Ministry sought more time, saying “the standards are yet to be fixed and one year’s time is required for completion”.

The Railways had earlier submitted international standards for emissions from diesel locomotive railway engines and filed a data sheet indicating the emissions from 30 railway engines.

According to the data sheet, the emission levels in the tested 30 railway engines were much above international standards.

The directions came during the hearing a petition filed by Dwarka resident S K Goyal about harmful emissions from diesel locomotives.

( Source – PTI )

NGT asks MoEF not to act under new notification

NGT asks MoEF not to act under new notification
NGT asks MoEF not to act under new notification

The National Green Tribunal today took the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to task over its recent notification exempting real estate projects from obtaining prior environmental clearance (EC) and restrained it from granting any fresh permissions under the new regulation.

“You can’t do legal blunders and get away with it,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said as it pulled up the MoEF for not “applying its mind” while amending the notification published on December 9, 2016 exempting building and construction projects of all sizes from the process of environment impact assessment (EIA) and prior environmental clearance before beginning construction.

For smaller projects (less than 20,000 sq metres), it even has a “self-declaration” clause, which will ensure issuance of permission from urban local bodies.

For larger projects of more than 20,000 sq m size, the EC and building permission will be given by urban local bodies simultaneously in an “integrated format”.

“Why don’t you (MoEF) do something constructive for the system. There is a way of doing things.

“We don’t understand why do you do these funny things….

“If you wanted to amend the notification, you could have simply said that though the new projects are not required to take EC, but each project when cleared by local authorities would have certain conditions imposed on it.

“You tell your ministry and all others not to act under the new notification, otherwise we will stay the notification.

“You can’t do legal blunders and get away with it,” the bench said while granting liberty to the petitioners to approach NGT if a single permission is granted under the new notification.

The matter is now listed for next hearing on January 12.

The green panel had earlier refused to stay the December 9 notification by MoEF and issued notices to the ministries of Environment and Forests and Urban Development while seeking their reply before January 4, 2017.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity seeking quashing of the December 9 notification on the grounds that it was in contravention to the provisions of EIA notification, 2006 and Environment Protection Act, 1986.

The plea had alleged that the notification tries to “circumvent” the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006 in the name of “ease of doing business” for building and construction of areas which are more than 20,000 sqm and less than 150,000 sqm wherein prior EC was required earlier.

The petition said the purpose of including the building and construction projects in the EIA notification is a failure of the urban local bodies and development authorities.

( Source – PTI )

NGT seeks info on stop-work order on Polavaram

NGT seeks info on stop-work order on Polavaram
NGT seeks info on stop-work order on Polavaram

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to inform it about the status of implementation of its stop work order at the Polavaram project.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the counsel for the Environment Ministry to submit a status report on the project and the Office Memorandum issued by it for stopping the work, by the next date of hearing on September 5.

The ministry had issued stop-work order in 2011 due to non-compliance of the condition for environment clearance, that is by conducting a public hearing in Chattisgarh and Odisha.

But the Environment Ministry last year decided to keep the stop work order in abeyance for a year, which expired in June this year.

“Counsel appearing for the MoEF prays for further time to take instructions. We hardly find any reason for the same.

However in the interest of justice, we grant last opportunity making it clear that in the event of default, the concerned Officer of the Ministry shall be present before the Tribunal on the next date of hearing,” the bench said.

The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by one Dari Linga who has alleged that Andhra Pradesh government was constructing the Polavaram project in gross violation of environmental laws.

The tribunal had earlier ordered a joint inspection of the Polavaram dam construction site by the Andhra Pradesh government, state pollution control board and Polavaram Project Authority following a complaint about dumping of mud in the West Godavari district.

Polavaram, which the AP government claims is the “lifeline of the state”, has been declared as a national project under the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.

“The central government shall execute the project and obtain all requisite clearances, including forest, environmental and rehabilitation and resettlement. The Union should take under its control the regulation and development of Polavaram,” the Act says.

Accordingly, the Centre constituted the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) for the purpose. The state government, however, has not handed over the project to the PPA and has been going ahead with the execution for the last two years.

( Source – PTI )

NGT notice on East Kidwai Nagar redevelopment

NGT notice on East Kidwai Nagar redevelopment
NGT notice on East Kidwai Nagar redevelopment

The redevelopment of East Kidwai Nagar in southwest Delhi by Urban Development Ministry has again come under the lens of National Green Tribunal which has sought response from the Centre and Delhi government after a plea alleged that requisite permissions have not been taken.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Delhi government and National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC) while seeking their reply by July 9.

The directions came while hearing a plea by South Delhi resident K S Gahunia who has alleged that NBCC, the project proponent, is in the garb of redevelopment destroying public roads and “illegally” erecting barricades on the roads.

Gahunia has also sought directions to restrain NBCC from operating the concrete mixing plants on roads without obtaining the required permission from regulatory authorities.

“NBCC has started reducing the width of the road from 90 feet to 30-40 feet with the malafide intentions causing utmost inconvenience to public…

“The Tribunal may kindly be pleased to pass an ad-interim injunction thereby restraining NBCC, their agents, representatives, employees etc from encroaching the public roads,” the plea said.

Earlier, in a separate plea, the Tribunal had given a go- ahead to the Rs 4,264-crore redevelopment project, where residential and commercial space is to be developed for government employees, saying “There is no reason to believe that the precautionary principle and the principle of sustainable development would be violated or compromised, if the said project is implemented”.

No going back on decision to ban 15-year-old vehicles: NGT

The National Green Tribunal today indicated that it would not go back on its decision to ban plying of vehicles more than 15 years old on Delhi roads.

Sources said the Tribunal gave the indication during a meeting it had with stakeholders to devise modalities for implementation of its order banning plying of old vehicles.

During the two-hour discussion, officials from 18 departments, including officials from Ministry of Environment and Forests, Petroleum Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Delhi Police and various other departments were present.

The sources said the Tribunal said it has its “limitations” and the sole motive of the meeting was to ensure an “effective and fruitful discussion” of the whole issue to ensure its smooth implementation.

During the meeting, DPCC said in every scientific study it is stated that pollution is increasing in the national capital. Everything is regulated here but the aspect of pollution has to be seen in totality.

DPCC said only Delhi is not responsible for increasing levels of pollution and surrounding areas of the city also contribute to it.

The Tribunal had on November 26 held that all vehicles which were more than 15 years old would not be permitted to ply on the city roads due to increasing air pollution.

It has also directed CPCB and DPCC to check all DTC buses, even if operating on CNG, and if the buses are found emitting in excess of prescribed standards, they must not be permitted to ply. It had also passed a slew of other directions.


Sports City in Noida: NGT seeks Centre’s response

Sports City in NoidaThe Centre was today directed by the National Green Tribunal to file its response on a petition alleging that an upcoming housing project, Sports City, in Sector 150 of Noida was against the prescribed norms of Noida Master Plan-2031.

A green bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) besides others and fixed the matter for next hearing on August 11.

“Issue notice to the MoEF, Noida, National Capital Region Planning Board…,” the bench said.

The tribunal’s order came over a petition filed by Mahendra Pandey.

During the hearing, Pandey’s counsel Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal claimed that Uttar Pradesh and in particular the Noida Authority has issued the scheme of Sports City, Noida, “without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub regional plan (Draft Master Plan-2031) from the NCRPB.

According to the petitioner “as per NCRPB Act 1985, no authority has the power to change the nature of the land and hence the change of land use of a part of proposed Sports City (from Recreational Green to Residential) is against the law of the land.”

The petition alleges that “while drafting the proposed scheme of the Sports City the Noida authority has favoured the builder lobby instead of taking care and protection of the Environment and thus the claim of the Noida Authority to provide the World Class Sports City is nothing but an eyewash.