Times of India
29, January 2011, CHENNAI: Shut down all dyeing and bleaching units on the banks of the polluted Noyyal river in Tirupur district and disconnect electricity supply to them, the Madras high court directed the Tamil Nadu government on Friday.
In a landmark ruling, the first bench, comprising Chief Justice M Yusuf Eqbal and Justice TS Sivagnanam, said criminal prosecution should be launched against the polluters. It also directed action against Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) officials who failed to comply with the court directions to prevent the pollution of the river.
The bench said that no unit should be allowed to reopen and operate unless it achieves zero discharge of untreated effluents. The court was hearing a contempt of court petition filed by the Noyyal River Ayacutdars Protection Association.
“We are fully convinced that unless stringent and deterrent action is taken by ordering immediate closure of the units, the water of the Noyyal river cannot be made free of the poisonous substances discharged from these units, and the water will not become fit for human consumption,” the judges said.
The matter relates to a series of litigations and judgments delivered by the high court and the Supreme Court since 1996 to ensure that the hundreds of dyeing and bleaching units in the Tirupur area achieved zero discharge of effluents into the Noyyal, a tributary of Cauvery.
In 2006, a division bench of the court had laid down a comprehensive scheme and even stipulated a fine, ranging from six paise to ten paise, per litre of untreated effluent let into water bodies. Though it was stayed by the apex court, the order was lifted in January 2010, after extending the deadline a couple of times.
In the contempt petition, petitioner’s counsel V Raghavachari argued that pollution of the river had been continuing unabated since 2007 and the units had been discharging untreated effluents without paying any fine. Additional advocate-general P Wilson said closure orders had been issued to over 700 units.
T Mohan, representing the court-appointed monitoring committee, said that since excess machinery installed by the units had not been removed, pollution level had increased in recent months. Even when electricity supply is disconnected, some units operate at night using generators, he said.
Expressing alarm at the level of disobedience, the bench said the facts revealed a “very gloomy picture” as to the manner in which the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had dealt with the issue.
The judges ordered the immediate closure of all dyeing and bleaching units in the area, making it clear that each unit and effluent treatment plant should be inspected by TNPCB officials as well as the monitoring committee. Only on the basis of their report could any unit be reopened and operated, they said.
Any extra machinery and pipelines found installed in the units should be removed immediately. Units that failed to comply with the directions of the high court and the Supreme Court should pay fine for every litre of effluent let into the river, they said.
Criminal prosecution should be initiated against violators of these orders and the pollution control board should furnish a list of officials in charge of affairs during the relevant point of time, they said.
As they had failed to fully comply with the directions, of the court appropriate action may be taken against them, the judges said.