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 )

Metro projects do not require prior EC:MoEF to NGT

Metro projects do not require prior EC:MoEF to NGT
Metro projects do not require prior EC:MoEF to NGT

Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) have informed the National Green Tribunal that Metro Rail projects are not required to seek environmental clearance.

The Environment Ministry told a bench headed by Justice U D Salvi that Railway projects and Metro Rail projects are not within the purview of 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment Notification and therefore prior Environmental Clearance was not required.

“The government of India, Ministry of Urban Development (Metro Rail Cell) vide Office Memorandum dated May 22, 2009 has sent a Cabinet note to the Ministry of Environment and Forest and that the MoEF have vide Office Memorandum dated June 2, 2009 responded to the Cabinet node stating that the Metro projects are not required to seek Environmental Clearance under EIA Notification…

“In view of the above, the construction of the Metro line from Noida to Greater Noida does not require an EC and it is respectfully submitted that the construction is in accordance with the Office Memorandum dated June 2, 2009 issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest,” an affidavit filed by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said.

On the issue of extraction of ground water, the DMRC denied that any ground water was being extracted for the construction of the metro project.

An application has been submitted before Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) for extraction of ground water which is currently pending for consideration, it said.

“It is submitted that DMRC which is executing agency for the Metro project and CEC-SAM India (NC-03) which is joint venture which has been allotted the tender for construction of the line are presently using STP treated water for construction of project which is supplied on regular basis,” DMRC said.

The affidavit was filed in response to a plea filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad seeking directions to Noida Metro Rail Corporation (NMRC) to obtain environmental clearance for its project from Noida to Greater Noida after conducting proper Environment Impact Assessment.

Tongad had stated that the metro from Noida to Greater Noida will pass through Hindon and piers would be constructed on the river bed which can significantly harm aquatic habitat of the river.

( Source – PTI )

NGT notice to MoEF on Noida-Greater Noida metro line

NGT notice to MoEF on Noida-Greater Noida metro line
NGT notice to MoEF on Noida-Greater Noida metro line

The National Green Tribunal has sought the response of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Uttar Pradesh government among others on a petition challenging the construction of upcoming Noida-Greater Noida metro line.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notice to Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Delhi and Noida Metro Rail Corporation, Uttar Pradesh government and others while seeking their reply by November 24.

The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad seeking directions to Noida Metro Rail Corporation (NMRC) to obtain environmental clearance for its project from Noida to Greater Noida after conducting proper Environment Impact Assessment of the project.

“From the detailed project report (DPR) it is clear that the total land requirement for the project of metro rail from Noida to Greater Noida is around 2,84,762.01 sq m, however, no Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report was prepared. This fact was verified by the applicant by inspecting the records of the project under Right to Information Act, 2005.

“It is submitted that as per 8(b) of the Schedule of EIA Notification, 2006 project having covering area more than 50 ha or built up area more than 150000 sq m requires environmental clearance and is to be appraised as category ‘B1’ project,” the plea, filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary, said.

Tongad stated that the metro from Noida to Greater Noida will pass through Hindon and piers would be constructed on the river bed which can significantly harm aquatic habitat of the river.

“During construction phase of the project, the total water requirement is about 1,40,00,000 litres. The water requirement would be met to by digging borewells. The detailed project report states that the water is made available by borewell within the vicinity of the project site during the construction phase.

“The requirement water for operation phase is not clear from the DPR. It is submitted that the extraction of groundwater will have further impact of the depleting groundwater level of Noida and Greater Noida,” the plea added.

 

( Source – PTI )

Suo motu PIL in Gujarat High Court on new tourism zone in Gir

The Gujarat High Court today sought explanation from the Centre and the state government on a plan to set up new tourist zone in the Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary.

The court took up the issue as a suo motu PIL.

The division bench comprising justices Akil Kureshi and J B Pardiwala served notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and the state government’s forest department in the PIL, which demanded that the area be declared as a ‘critical habitat zone’.

The court also directed the Gujarat government to file a status report on developmental and construction activities in the Gir Lions sanctuary elaborating whether those activities are permissible under provisions of the law.

The bench asked details of private properties constructed in the sanctuary and directed the district collector of Gir-Somnath to file a reply.

The issue surfaced after a ‘whistleblower’ made a detailed application to the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, last month, stating that the Gujarat government has proposed a new tourist zone in the south-east area of the Gir sanctuary.

It was contended in the application that the south- east area should be declared as a ‘critical wild-life zone’ instead of proposing a new tourist zone.

There is already a tourist zone in Gir Asiatic lions sanctuary and due to this encroachment of developmental activities, the ecology of the area has incurred a loss, the application said.

The Gujarat High Court has taken up the issue as a suo motu PIL and initiated proceedings.

After issuing notices to all respondents, the court posted the matter for further hearing on October 16.

SC asks MoEF to decide on clearance to Adani SEZ

adaniThe Supreme Court today asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to take a decision on grant or denial of clearances to Adani Port Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) within eight weeks.

A forest bench headed by Justice J S Khehar, expressing unhappiness over delay, said this will be the last chance to the ministry and if the task is not completed the Secretary, MoEF will be personally held responsible.

The apex court while allowing operations at the functional units in the SEZ had in January asked the environment ministry to take decisions in three months. The time was extended by 8 weeks but today the court was informed that decisions are yet not taken.

Meanwhile, the court said that its earlier order allowing work at operational units will continue.

Earlier, on January 27, the apex court had granted conditional permission to industrial units within the Adani Port Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) in Gujarat to resume operations asking them to desist from carrying out any further construction until environmental clearance from the Centre.

The apex court had retained the high court order which had said that the Centre has to decide within 30 days whether the environmental clearance should be granted.

The high court had said, “There shall not be any further activity in the form of construction, etc, including the functioning of the units in the area in question.”

The PIL filed in the high court by villagers of Navinal in Mundra tehsil of Kutch district, where the SEZ is located, alleged that companies located within the zone were operating and even importing and exporting goods though they do not have environmental clearance from the MoEF.

In February 2013, the court asked Ahlstom Fiber Composites, Adi Oil, Empezar, Avesta Eng, Ashapura Garment, Terram Geosynthetic, Theramax, SKAPS Industries, Oilfield Warehouse and Services, Dorf Ketal Specialty Catalyst, Anjani Udyog and Oriental Carbon Chem to stop operations at the Mundra Port in Kutch district, pending clearance from MOEF.

The high court in its order had said, “According to the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006, in order to have right of creation of infrastructural facilities over the land allotted, prior approval of the central government is necessary before making any construction, and without having acquired such right, the APSEZ, the allottee from the government, could not have conveyed such rights to its lessee.”

Further, the court had said, “While taking into consideration the issue of grant of environmental clearance, it would be open for the central government to even take into consideration the Sunita Narain Committee report as discussed in our judgment.”The committee had been appointed by the MOEF earlier to inspect the project.

(Source: PTI)

SC bans green nod for new hydro-power units in Uttarakhand

Expressing concern over the recent rain havoc in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court Tuesday told the central and state governments not to grant environmental clearance for any hydro-power project in the hill state.

“We direct the MoEF as well as state of Uttarakhand not to grant any further environmental or forest clearance for any hydroelectric power project in the state of Uttarakhand, until further orders,” said the apex court bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra.

Putting a blanket ban on the grant of environmental clearance to any hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand, Justice Radhakrishnan pronouncing the judgment said: “The adverse effect of the existing projects, projects under construction and proposed, on the environment and ecology calls for a detailed scientific study.”

“Proper disaster management plan, it is seen, is also not in place, resulting in loss of lives and property,” the court said.

“We are also deeply concerned with the recent tragedy, which has affected the Char Dham area of Uttarakhand,” the court said.

 It further noted that Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in the state recorded 350 mm of rain June 15-16.

“Snowfall ahead of the cloudburst also has contributed to the floods resulting in the burst on the banks of Chorabari lake near Kedarnath, leading to large scale calamity leading to loss of human lives and property,” the court said.

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) “is directed to constitute an expert Body…to make a detailed study as to whether hydro-electric power projects existing and under construction have contributed to the environmental degradation, if so, to what extent and also whether it has contributed to the present tragedy occurred at Uttarakhand in June”.

The expert body would consist of the representatives of the state government, Central Electricity Authority, Central Water Commission and other expert bodies.

The Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Authority would submit a report as to “whether they had any disaster management plan in place…and how effective that plan was for combating the present unprecedented tragedy”, the court said.

The court said that the reports would be submitted within a period of three months.

The court’s order came while disposing off a petition by Alakhnanda Hydropower Co. Limited challenging the Uttarakhand High court order directing to hold public hearing for increasing the height of the dam for producing 330 MW of electricity on the Alakhnanda river.

Initially the project was for 200 MW and was granted to Duncan Industries Limited which gave it up later. When this project was awarded to Alakhnanda Hydropower Co. its generation capacity was increased to 330 MW involving the increasing of the height of the dam and displacement of people.

(Source: IANS)

Atomic energy regulator yet to file Kudankulum report in SC

The Indian atomic energy regulator has not yet filS.P. Udayakumar,ed with the Supreme Court its report on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP, an anti-KNPP activist said Wednesday.

“In response to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) in its reply dated July 1 said: ‘The report would be filed by AERB in he Hon’ble Court before granting next stage of clearance for commissioning of the plant.’,” M. Pushparayan of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) told IANS.

The RTI application was filed by PMANE’s co-ordinator S.P. Udayakumar June 4, asking the AERB of action taken so far to fulfill a Supreme Court direction while giving its clearance to the KNPP in May.

The AERB did not give any time frame for granting the next stage of clearance for the KNPP.

The apex court May 6 directed that the AERB, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to oversee each and every aspect of the project, including safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of components and systems in the plant before its commissioning.

The apex court had also directed the environment ministry to oversee and monitor whether the NPCIL is complying with the conditions laid down while granting clearance dated Sep 23, 2008, under the provisions of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Notification of 2006.

It was also to see that the conditions laid down in the environmental clearance granted by it Dec 31, 2009, were complied with.

“AERB and the ministry will see that all the conditions stipulated by them are duly complied with before the plant is made operational,” the apex court had held.

The MoEF had June 27 communicated to Udayakumar that the KNPP site visit is neither finalised nor submitted to any agency so far, and the decision is yet to be finalised.

A committee consisting of officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), NPCIL, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the TNPCB had inspected the KNPP May 5, 2013.

Only the state pollution control board has submitted its report to the apex court July 8, after issuing to the KNPP its consent to operate June 24.

In its consent order the TNPCB has stipulated that KNPP should connect its computer systems monitoring the ambient and plant effluent temperature to its network.

The pollution board has also asked KNPP to increase its green belt cover to 25 percent of its 1,050 hectares – 262.5 hectares – from the current six percent – 63.4 hectares.

The apex court had also directed the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw all the cases filed against the agitators so that peace and normalcy is restored.

In response to a public interest litigation filed by an advocate to know the action taken by the state government in complying with the supreme court’s direction in the Madras High Court, the Tamil Nadu government Tuesday had sought one week’s time to gather details of the cases filed against the protestors.

India’s atomic power plant operator NPCIL is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of 1,000 MW each.

The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001.

Fearing for their safety in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam plant, under the PMANE’s banner have been opposing the project.

City-based environmental activist G. Sundarrajan had filed a case in the apex court demanding the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for NPCIL, AERB, MoEF, Tamil Nadu government and TNPCB to follow.

The project, however, had been delayed mainly due to non-sequential supplies of components from Russian vendors.

(Source: IANS)

No violation is minor: MoEF

Whether a project developer builds a factory or a part of it illegally, the environment ministry will treat the entire construction illegal and won’t classify the violations as major and minor, unlike a proposal that was mooted earlier.

 

A move had been made to dilute the norms of the ministry of environments and forests (MoEF) and overlook small and minor infringements of green laws while granting clearance to a project. However, the MoEF has decided not to dilute its stand considering it would lose mandate to hold projects like Lavasa and Vedanta accountable for violation of regulations.

Sources in the ministry told TOI that a committee had been set up earlier to review if violations committed by projects of the conditions set in the environmental clearances could be classified under various categories. The committee, headed by B Sengupta, an ex-member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, had classified the violations into two categories that were suggested in the terms of reference as ‘serious’ and ‘not so serious’.

But a proposal was then mooted to look at violations committed by project proponents even before clearances are granted through the same prism of ‘serious’ and ‘less serious’ classifications.

Sources in the ministry said the move to ease norms for project proponents, who start work before securing mandatory green clearances, had been rejected.

Since the SC passed orders in Meghalaya Lafarge on not accepting fait accompli situations, where developers first construct projects and then come to the MoEF seeking clearance post-facto on the basis of investments made, the ministry has been wary of making moves that would condone illegalities.

(Source:TOI)

Constructions in Delhi Ridge: court notice to ministries

The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the ministry of defence (MoD) on a petition seeking a stay on the construction of staff quarters by cutting trees in Delhi’s green Ridge area.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna Wednesday issued the notice seeking their response by Aug 17. It has also sought a reply from the government and the Border Roads Organisation.

The court issued notice while hearing the petition filed by Ashok Kumar Tanwar, a Delhi resident, who said the construction work was in complete violation of environmental norms.

“Direct the concerned respondents to protect the forest land and waste land surrounded at west by Inderpuri road and Naraina Industrial Area,” said the petition, adding that they should also be stopped from illegal activities of quarrying, mining, felling of trees and raising apartments in the Ridge area.

On noticing the environmental degradation around their village, Tanwar wrote to the MoEF in 2005 complaining about the illegal activities under way in the central Ridge area, but nobody took action.

A forest officer of the Delhi government had visited the site and submitted a report in September 2005. According to the report, heavy machinery is being used to take out stones from the area.

“The authorities are failing to perform their statutory duty in protecting the reserve forests and knowingly allowing illegal activities in the area,” the petition adds.