National Green Tribunal, New Delhi (NGT): The Bench of Adarsh Kumar Goel, J (Chairperson) and Sudhir Agarwal, J (Judicial Member) and Prof. A. Senthil Vel (Expert Member) took suo moto cognizance based on media report titled “Non compliance of EC conditions by Kulda coal mine, Odisha & Tamnar Thermal Plant, Chhattisgarh” highlighting environment norms violations, particularly EC conditions in relation to operation of Kulda coal mine and Tamnar thermal plant, Chhattisgarh.

Matter in concern

In the present matter, it was alleged by the media report that violation of environment norms had taken place in the course of transportation of coal from Kulda to Tamnar in 200 dumpers of 21 tonne capacity, through 14 villages with a combined population of over 15,000 as per census 2011, requiring 400 daily trips or a truck passing every 3-4 minutes. Due to non-availability of dedicated coal linkage and delay in construction work, JPL will continue transportation of coal by road from Kulda. Due to these frequent trips, villagers have complained of spike in respiratory illness and contamination of water bodies and cropland, leading to loss of productivity and blackening of vegetables and paddy.

Bench’s take

Taking suo moto cognizance based on a media report, the bench constituted a joint Committee of CPCB, State PCBs of Odisha and Chhattisgarh, Regional Officer of MoEF&CC at Bhuvneshwar and District Magistrates Sundergarh (Orissa) and Raipur (Chattisgarh), vide order dated 30-03-2022, to ascertain facts and furnish a report to the Tribunal regarding the alleged violation of environment norms.

The joint committee filed its report dated 11-07-2022 and acknowledged the violations and recommended remedial actions.

Observation of the Committee

The joint committee observed, at present, more than 1,400 heavy coal-transporting vehicles, both loaded and unloaded trucks, ply on the road due creating a heavy traffic which has affected the use of the road by villagers for their basic needs. Moreover, the road in concern was in a damaged condition for more than five years and due to this the villagers have faced fugitive dust problems and noise issues during plying of vehicles.

Summarising the observations of the members of the committee, all agreed that the road passing through the villages is not in motorable condition and has an impact on the environment, health and safety of local villagers. The road in concern needs to be repaired and renovated at the earliest.

The Committee also recommended for the preparation of transport management plan after in depth study, in terms of the total area required for the transportation of the coal and other commodities in the next 20 years.

Bench’s decision

Accepting the reports filed by the Committee, the bench ordered to repair and renovate the road used for the transportation of coal from Kulda coal mine in Odisha to Tamnar thermal power plant in Chhattisgarh at the earliest and also to take remedial actions in terms of the recommendations to stop further pollution and to fix liability for the past violations on ‘Polluter Pays’ principle.

To implement the order, the bench suggested the the Chief Secretaries (Orissa and Chhattisgarh) to hold a joint meeting along with the Project Proponents (PPs) and Members of the joint Committee to be chaired by the Chief Secretary, Orissa  within one month, to work out further course of action and the joint Committee may file an action taken report within three months.

[In re: News report published in the Newspaper named Indian Express, Daily News Paper dated : 4th February, 2022, Kolkata, Late City Edition titled “Non compliance of EC conditions by Kulda coal mine, Odisha & Tamnar Thermal Plant, Chhattisgarh”, Original Application No. 236/2022, dated 15-07-2022]


Ritu Singh, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

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