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NGT: STRENGTHEN HSPCB AND OTHER DIRECTION TO CPCB

Context:

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT), in a landmark judgement, directed Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) to strengthen its capacity, both in terms of human resource and setting up of modern laboratories.
  • NGT also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to prepare recruitment rules to be followed by all states, mechanism for annual performance audit of SPCBs or pollution control committees (PCC), among other things.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Government Policies and Interventions, Important Organizations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Green Tribunal (NGT)
  2. Structure of National Green Tribunal
  3. Powers of NGT
  4. Challenges related NGT:
  5. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
  6. Recent orders of the NGT:
  7. Impact of these orders

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.

Challenges related NGT:

  • Two important acts – Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction. This restricts the jurisdiction area of NGT and at times hampers its functioning as crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to environment.
  • Decisions of NGT have also been criticised and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
  • The absence of a formula based mechanism in determining the compensation has also brought criticism to the tribunal.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases – which undermines NGT’s very objective of disposal of appeals within 6 months.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a Statutory Organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • It was established in 1970s under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act.
  • CPCB is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control.
  • It is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.

Recent orders of the NGT:

The NGT passed an order for the Haryana government to revisit its inspection policy and make it adequate to ensure effective enforcement of law.

Orders to CPCB:

  • Conduct Inspection at higher frequencies.
  • Enhance capacity of SPCBs/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) with consent funds.
  • Enhance capacity of CPCB utilising environment compensation funds.
  • Audit the Annual performance of state PCBs/PCCs.
  • Prepare a format containing qualifications, minimum eligibility criteria and required experience for key positions.

Impact of these orders

  • In the name of ‘ease of doing business’, powers and authorities of SPCB have been compromised. The latest judgement of NGT is a fresh start to the long-delayed initiative of strengthening CPCB/SPCBs/PCCs.
  • The judgment of NGT could be termed as landmark. The NGT has tried to erase the bottlenecks, which were being used to halt the strengthening of environmental regulation.
  • The important part of the judgement is asking CPCB to come out with standard recruitment rules which can be followed by all states. The existing SPCBs recruitment rules have not been updated for decades.

-Source: Down to Earth

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June 2022
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