25 February 2012
It sets aside environmental clearance for Perungudi waste management facility
On the first day of its functioning here, the National Green Tribunal’s Circuit Court here set aside the environmental clearance granted by the Tamil Nadu government to the Chennai Corporation’s integrated solid waste management facility at Perungudi.
Passing orders on an appeal by V. Srinivasan against the Tamil Nadu State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority and others, the tribunal headed by Justice C.V. Ramulu said that the project fell within Category A and the Union government (Ministry of Environment and Forests) alone could issue environment clearance (EC).
After hearing arguments of both sides, Mr. Justice Ramulu said that if any project site was within a 10-km radius from a national park or a protected area, permission could be obtained only from the Union Environment Ministry.
If the site was beyond 10 km, permission could be obtained from the State government.
“When we entertained a doubt about the distance of this project from the Guindy National Park [GNP], we directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests/Chief Wildlife Warden to get the aerial distance [between the project site and the GNP] on October 18, 2011. In pursuant to that, the PCCF/CWLW submitted a report on November 25, 2011, stating that the distance between the two nearest points of project site and GNP to be as 5.6 km and 6.2 km,” he said.
“Pollution doesn’t travel by road”
Taking critical view of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s contention that the distance was more than 10 km (measured along the road connecting the two places), the judge remarked that pollution did not travel by road.
R. Nagendran, the tribunal’s expert member said, “The TNPCB should lay a road map for abetting pollution.”
When TNPCB counsel said that the distance was calculated by the Chennai Corporation, the judge asked, “How can you blindly believe that?”
Even as the judge was beginning to make more critical remarks, the TNPCB counsel pleaded with the judge not to pass further strictures.
In agreement with the demand of Ritwick Dutta, counsel for the appellant, the Judge said that even the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by the project proponent could not be blindly accepted by the MoEF for granting EC for the project in question.
‘Frame criminal charges’
In his argument, Mr. Dutta wanted the tribunal to frame criminal charges against the EIA consultant for concealing critical information about the project, alleging it was done deliberately.
As per agreed guidelines, the consultant would not have been eligible to prepare EIA for Category ‘A’ projects, he argued.
The court observed that this issue of giving details of distance must be dealt with seriously and that the consultant, if necessary, warned.
V. Srinivasan of Save Pallikaranai Marshland, the appellant, said that the case was initially before the National Environmental Appellate Authority, which was disbanded and the case transferred to the National Green Tribunal.
The tribunal’s circuit court here will hear cases from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.