National Green Tribunal

National Green Tribunal: Taking suo motu cognizance in news item titled “Feeling anxious? Toxic air could be to blame” appearing in Times of India dated 10-10-2023 and news item titled “Delhi Chennai studies hint at pollution link to diabetes” appearing in Times of India dated 10-10-2023, a 3-member bench comprising of Prakash Shrivastava, J., (Chairperson), Sudhir Agarwal, J., and Dr. A. Senthil Vel (Expert Member), emphasised on the importance of transparent fund utilization and comprehensive planning to mitigate environmental hazards, particularly those related to air pollution, and directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to submit a detailed report addressing the identified concerns.

The NGT registered two suo-moto applications highlighting health hazards associated with deteriorating air quality, including risks of depression, anxiety, respiratory disorders, and new onset type-II diabetes. The CPCB provided a reply disclosing the status of Environmental Compensation (EC) funds, revealing that a portion was disbursed for road construction by Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC), but failed to provide evidence of approval or guidelines for such activities. The Health Department GNCTD-respondent 5 submitted studies indicating the adverse effects of air pollution on mental health, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments, particularly in India. The Health Department suggested general and specific remedial measures to mitigate the impact of air pollution on mental health.

The NGT noted the diversion of EC funds by the CPCB for activities such as road construction by local bodies like GMC and expressed concern regarding the permissibility, utilization and potential misuse of EC funds by CPCB for purposes other than their intended use by the local bodies. The NGT acknowledged the lack of evidence regarding the approval and criteria for diverting EC funds for road construction, emphasising on the need for transparency and accountability. The NGT highlighted the necessity for a comprehensive plan to prioritize the utilization of EC and Environment Protection Charge (EPC) funds to address various environmental issues, especially those related to air pollution. The NGT also raised concerns about the absence of monitoring and reporting on certain air pollutants, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive data collection to assess their impact on public health.

The NGT directed the CPCB to submit a detailed report within four weeks, addressing specific issues:

  1. Approval process for releasing EC funds for road construction.

  2. Comprehensive plan for utilizing EC and EPC funds to address environmental components, including air quality.

  3. Response on the relationship between pollutants and human health, considering the inadequate ambient air quality standards.

The next hearing is scheduled for 10-07-2024.

[In re: News Item titled “Feeling anxious? Toxic air could be to blame” appearing in Times of India dated 10.10.2023, 2024 SCC OnLine NGT 286, order dated 02-04-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Shlok Chandra (Through VC) & Mr. Sankalp Sharma, Counsel for the MoEF & CC

Mr. Shashwat Sharma, Counsel for the ICMR (R – 3)

Mr. Rajkumar, Mr. Ankit Chaudhary, Mr. Sumit Chaudhary, Ms. Neetu Singh & Mr. Bharat Bhushan, Counsel for the CPCB

Mr. Amit Singh Chauhan, Counsel for the CPCB

Ms. Jyoti Mendiratta & Ms. Ananya Basudha, Counsel for the Health & Family Welfare Deptt., GNCTD

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