NGT | ‘Lack of funds no excuse for State’s failure to maintain clean environment which is a fundamental right’: Govt. of HP directed to take remedial steps to contain pollution

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Full Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members) addressed a matter wherein violation of Air and Water Act has been stated and ground for polluted environment is the lack of funds with the local body.

In the present application, the grievance was with regard to the violation of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 in a village in Himachal Pradesh on account of failure to handle waste which is being burnt causing air pollution, resulting in diseases, loss of livestock and contributing to forest fires and loss of wildlife.

Increase in monkeys, feral dogs and scavengers namely crows, vultures, etc. have also been noticed. Further, the Dumpsite in hilly terrain has been overflowing and contaminating water body, which is a source of irrigation.

The above-stated deficiencies have been pointed by relying upon the photographs and letters addressed to the authorities.

Deputy Commission and the Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, both had sought a report vide its order dated 14-01-2020.

In the report filed n 13-11-2020 following was stated:

As per the said report, the Joint Inspection Committee had directed the Municipal Council, Hamirpur:- (i) to join the corners of RCC retaining wall with the hill ~ide to avoid spillage of Solid Waste (ii) to provide proper fencing to avoid entry of stray animals inside the facility (iii) construct storm drain of adequate size to avoid entry of storm water/rain water and (iv) to ensure that no fire incident/forest fire take place in the solid waste processing facility. Being a nodal agency, State Board also issued directions vide office letter dated 14/02/2020 to Municipal Council, Hamirpur to comply with the recommendations of the Joint Inspection committee.

It is further submitted that the Joint Inspection Committee was once again requested by the State Board on 17.10.2020 to re-inspect the site to verify whether the recommendations of the said committee have been complied with by M.C. Hamirpur at its Solid Waste Processing Facility. Recently, joint inspection of the site was once again conducted on 10.11.2020, under the Chairmanship of Addl. District Magistrate, Hamirpur alongwith Sub Divisional Magistrate Hamirpur, Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una), Executive Officer, (Municipal Council Hamirpur), Asstt. Engineer, (Jal Shakti Vibhag, Hamirpur) and Asstt. Environmental Engineer, (HPSPCB, Una).

Bench noted that the deficiencies still persist and the reason for the failure to take action on the ground has been lack of funds with the local body.

Tribunal held that the ground of “lack of funds” is not a valid ground as clean environment is a fundamental right for which funds are to arranged by the authorities either by collection from the citizens concerned or otherwise.

In view of the above, Bench directed the Secretary, Urban Development Department, Himachal Pradesh to ensure further remedial action.

Matter has been further listed for consideration on 24-03-2021. [Rita Sharma v. State of H.P., Original Application No. 05 of 2020, decided on 13-11-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

Applicants: Tushar Giri, Advocate

Respondents: Sanjay Kumar, Advocate for HPSPCB

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