Central Pollution Control Board Current Affairs - 2020

National Green Tribunal forms committee to stop illegal groundwater extraction

Expressing concern over depleting groundwater levels, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set up a committee to formulate steps required to prevent illegal extraction of groundwater.

NGT’s decision was take in response to hearing of a plea filed by a city resident, Shailesh Singh seeking action against depleting groundwater levels in nation and prevention of its illegal extraction.

Key Highlights of Committee

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the committee to evolve a robust mechanism for ensuring that groundwater is not illegally extracted and to monitor manning and functioning of Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).

Committee may look into the reports already submitted. The report may be furnished within 2 months by e-mail.

Members: Committee comprises of joint secretaries of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), National Remote Sensing Centre, National Institute of Hydrology (Roorkee) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Nodal agency will be the Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for coordination and compliance.

Arguments by NGT

The tribunal took to notice that despite a 1996 order of Supreme Court order with regard to groundwater extraction, the water level has only gone down. The SC order had directed central government to constitute a body to look into the issue of groundwater depletion.

However, in spite of clear directions of Supreme Court, the CGWA is unwilling to take the ownership of subject and repeatedly takes the plea that it does not have infrastructure or that the responsibility of dealing with problem is of States and not that of the said authority.

Thus NGT stressed that it is high time that working of CGWA is reviewed and remedial measures are taken, including assessment of suitability of the person to head it. NGT also held that CPCB report that states that water intensive industries can be allowed even in semi-critical and critical areas without any further safeguards may not be acted upon till further orders.

Illegal Coal Mining in Meghalaya: SC directs State Govt to deposit fine

Supreme Court of India has directed Meghalaya state government to deposit Rs.100 crore fine imposed on it by National Green Tribunal (NGT) for failing to curb illegal coal mining with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Key Highlights of Judgement

A SC bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K M Joseph has directed state administration to hand over illegally extracted coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) which will auction it and deposit the funds with state government.

SC upheld that as per statutory regime brought in force by notification of 15 January 2016 issued under Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) 1986, environmental clearance was required for a project of coal for mining of any extent of area.

SC bench also acknowledged that since Meghalaya has very limited sources of revenue and it allowed it to transfer Rs.100 crore to CPCB would be used for restoration work from Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (EPRF).

Evidence: Allegations of environmental degradation by illegal and unregulated coal mining has taken place in Meghalaya were fully proved from report of Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, report of committee headed by former High Court Judge B P Katakey (or Katakey Committee), and report of experts, which all proved environmental degradation of water, air and surface.

Coal lying in Open: SC clarified that all extracted coal as assessed by Meghalaya government lying in different districts which as per order of NGT is in custody of state shall be handed over to Coal India Ltd. (CIL) for proper disposal. Katakey Committee after discussion with CIL and Meghalaya shall formulate a mechanism for transport, weighment of all assessed coal. The apex court had earlier refused to allow miners to transport extracted coal lying at various sites in Meghalaya.

Allowed Sites: SC bench has allowed mining operation to go on in Hills districts of Meghalaya on either privately or community owned land, but it is subjected to lease or required permissions from concerned authorities.

Background

On 13 December 2018, total of 15 miners were trapped in an illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, about 3.7 km deep inside a forest, when water from nearby Lytein river gushed into it. So far only two bodies have been recovered from mine.