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NGT slams MoEF for delay in issuing notification ‘banning’ RO purifiers



The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for the delay in issuing a notification  banning RO purifiers where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water are below 500 milligrams per litre, and warned the officer concerned of stopping his salary.

The green panel granted last opportunity to the Ministry to comply with the directions by December 31, 2019, failing which the officer in-charge concerned in the Ministry will not be entitled to draw salary from January 1, 2020.

The court has posted the matter for receiving compliance report on January 10, 2020 and warned of further coercive measures if the order is not complied with.

In a bid to regulate the use of reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers, a bench led by chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel while hearing a petition filed by NGO Friends, on May 20, had directed the environment ministry to prohibit the use of RO purifiers within one month in areas where total dissolved solids (TDS) in water are below 500 mg per litre and sensitise the public about the ill-effects of demineralised water.

The matter was considered by the tribunal for more than four years and finally the order to regulate the use of RO purifiers was passed after perusing a report on April 30 received from an expert committee set up by the NGT, comprising representatives of MoEF, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), IIT (Delhi) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Delhi (NEERI, Delhi).

The tribunal held that water supplied by municipalities from lakes, rivers and ponds does not need RO filtration and recommended installation of RO plants for sources having TDS levels above 500 mg per litre (mg/l), which is the acceptable limit as per the 2012 Indian Drinking Water Standards.

However when the matter came up for next hearing on September 23, the Union ministry did not comply with the same and, instead, filed an affidavit seeking eight months’ time but the court rejected its request terming their prayer as unreasonable and detrimental to public.

Accordingly, the Ministry filed a status report on October 31, stating that as issuing notification is a policy related matter, comprises features of multidimensional in character which inter alia, include complex geographical spread, varied users i.e. commercial, residential, etc. Hence, region-wise detailed consultation will be required before notification and a progress report on monthly basis will be submitted to tribunal.

A bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, said that the delay in compliance of its order is causing harm to public health and environment.

 “The officers present have not shown any valid reason for non-compliance beyond what is mentioned above which stand has no merit”, the NGT observed noting that order is a binding decree under Section 25 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 and the officers of MoEF are liable to be proceeded against for non-compliance.

It also noted that the inter related matter on Central Ground Water Authority data submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board and their subsequent report on the subject of checking wastage of groundwater and connected issues will be considered on November 28.

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