Expressing concern over lack of compliance with solid waste management rules, National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has directed chief secretaries of all states to be present before it with status reports of action taken and the subsequent measures to be adopted.
The NGT has fixed April 10 for the state of Goa demanding that the chief secretary be present in person before the court with the reports on status of compliance of SWM Rule, 2016, Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 as well as status of action plan with regard to identification of polluted industrial clusters and total amount collected from erring industries on the basis of ‘polluter pays principle’, ‘precautionary principle’ along with details of utilisation of funds collected.
The court also asked to update it on the status of identification and development of model cities and towns in the state in the first phase which can be replicated later for other cities and towns of the state.
The bench has specified that all chief secretaries, who have been summoned from March 1 onwards, have to be personally present and the task cannot be delegated to other officers.
In a slew of directions to ensure that the state governments comply with Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, NGT has asked to make appointment of former high court judges in every state to oversee the execution of the tribunal’s orders and after the Chief Secretaries have monitored the matters, the status reports of compliance and immediate future plans may be presented/filed before this Tribunal.
States have also been asked to display their progress reports on the websites of their pollution control boards.
The court observed that the issue of solid waste management is of paramount importance for protection of environment and noted that timelines of two years have expired as solid waste management rules came into force on April 8, 2016. Timeline of three years is going to expire on April 8, 2019.
The court directed District Collectors under Rule 12 of SWM Rules, 2016 to meet monthly and forward the report to State Urban Development Department and send copy to the State Level Committee. The apex monitoring committee will then interact with the state committees in such manner as may be found necessary and give its quarterly report to the tribunal.
The bench also directed CPCB to prepare a standard operating procedure after considering successful modes for bio-mining so that legacy waste can be disposed of within a month. District Collectors have been directed to meet monthly and submit a report to state urban development department and the state level committee.
It also asked the chief secretaries of the states and UTs to ensure that all the drains (big or small) are tapped with appropriate measures (wire nets etc) and no municipal solid and plastic waste is allowed to reach our river systems, lakes, water bodies, ponds, marsh lands and wetlands etc.
Further, all states and union territories have been directed to constitute special task forces of three members in every district, and Information Education and Communication (IEC) programmes have been suggested for public awareness on SWM Rules, 2016 involving educational, religious and social organisations including local eco-clubs.
“Merely passing of orders without their execution defeats the object for which NGT was set up,” the order noted. The four-member bench headed by Justice A K Goel took note of the 2018 annual report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and frequent complaints filed with the green court on disposal of solid waste to observe that its orders were not implemented.
The bench said, “According to the World Bank, India’s daily waste generations will reach 3,77,000 tonne by 2025. Unless the problem is tackled, its impact on health and lives of citizens can be devastating.”
“It is high time that stern measures are taken not only by those in charge of administering law themselves but also by educating and involving public at large,” the bench added.
The tribunal has warned state governments that as per the ‘polluter pays’ principle, damages may be recovered from concerned officers for failure to meet deadlines and they can also be held liable for paying damages which may be recovered from the polluters and the erring officers.
According to the tribunal, despite its own previous interventions and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the situation remained a mounting challenge. Even as India generates over 150,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day, only 83 per cent is collected and less than 30 per cent is treated, states the order.