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NGT ORDER FINES MUMBAI FIRMS FOR CREATING ‘GAS CHAMBERS’

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Introduction

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in an order asked four industrial firms in Mumbai to pay Rs 286 crore as compensation for environmental damages caused by air pollution over five years.
  • The NGT held them responsible for creating “gas chamber”-like conditions in certain areas of Mumbai.
  • The calculations of the environmental damage compensation were based on the report by an in-house technical committee of the Central Board of Pollution Control (CBPC).
  • (Volatile organic compounds) VOC emissions data was collected based on records produced by the companies.

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, including benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, and are harmful toxic pollutants that cause exposure-related health effects in human beings.
  • Among the major contributors to air pollution in Chembur are logistic services storing oil, gas and chemical items; and oil companies releasing VOCs during loading, storage and unloading or handling of hazardous chemicals at various stages.
  • Many cases of pulmonary diseases and respiratory tract infections have been reported due to exposure to VOCs.
  • VOCs are also emitted by a wide array of household products including paints, cleaning supplies and pesticides.

Who will get the compensation?

The compensation will be made available for the plan to be executed by the respondents (firms) themselves, or otherwise as may be decided by the committee from time to time.

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, passed by the Central Government.
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
  • NGT Act draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • The stated objective of the Central Government was to provide a specialized forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.

Structure of National Green Tribunal

  • Following the enactment of the said law, the Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi.
  • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.

Powers of NGT

The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  3. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  6. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

This means that any violations pertaining ONLY to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.

Importantly, the NGT has NOT been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

-Source: Indian Express

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September 2022
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