‘Cattle in dairies next to landfills feed on hazardous waste; their milk would have serious consequences on humans consuming’; Delhi HC issues directions for relocation of dairies

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) relating to dairy colonies situated in close proximity to landfill sites within Delhi, the Division Bench of Manmohan*, Acting CJ., and Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, J., expressed concern and stated that not only does this pose an imminent threat to public safety, but that problem was massive, which was made worse by the complete failure of the authorities and those involved to act promptly, despite repeated instructions from the court to take measures to mitigate the same.

The Court expressed scepticism towards the government’s assertions regarding the containment of hazards emanating from dairy operations near landfill sites. Specifically, the Court questioned the feasibility of preventing cattle from ingesting hazardous waste until the anticipated clearance of landfill sites by 2025-26.

Emphasizing the paramount importance of regulatory adherence, the Court emphasized the imperative for existing dairy establishments to comply with municipal laws. These regulations mandate obtaining licenses from various authorities, including the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Animal Husbandry Department, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, and the Food Safety Authority.

Acknowledging the urgent need for effective waste management strategies, the Court issued directives for the expeditious installation of bio-gas plants in proximity to authorized dairy facilities. These plants were tasked with facilitating the generation of dry manure and biogas fuel, with a mandate to complete installations before the onset of the monsoon season.

Stressing stringent quality control measures, the Court emphasized the necessity of ramping up testing protocols for milk products. This encompassed comprehensive testing for chemical contaminants and the implementation of random sample checks to ascertain the safety and purity of dairy products consumed by the populace.

In addition to overarching directives, the Court issued specific mandates tailored to address the challenges faced by individual dairy colonies. Notably, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was tasked with the removal of encroachments from the Ghogha dairy, accompanied by strict enforcement of prescribed limits on cattle numbers per plot. Furthermore, the Madanpur Khadar Dairy Colony was earmarked as a pilot project, designated to serve as a model for achieving comprehensive compliance with existing regulatory frameworks.

The Court acknowledged the risk of bovine diseases spreading rapidly among animals and potentially to humans due to the close proximity of dairy farms to landfill sites. It found the suggestion to continue operating dairies near these sites unacceptable, therefore, the Court issued directives for relocation, compliance with licensing requirements, establishment of veterinary hospitals, installation of bio-gas plants, and ramping up milk testing for chemical presence. Specific directives were issued for Ghogha Dairy, including the removal of unauthorized constructions and ensuring compliance with prescribed cattle numbers per plot.

A pilot project was initiated at Madanpur Khadar Dairy Colony to ensure compliance with existing laws, including mapping and identification of plots, tagging of cattle, awareness campaigns against the use of spurious oxytocin, medical care of cattle, and maintenance of cleanliness and hygiene standards. The respondents were instructed to cooperate fully and file an action taken report within eight weeks. Additionally, the Chief Secretary was directed to outline a roadmap for the future of the nine dairy colonies and address the issue of illegal dairy operations in non-conforming areas at a later date. The matter was scheduled for further review on 27-05-2024.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing situation, the Court emphasized the need for careful consideration and planning in exploring relocation possibilities, with a particular focus on the Ghogha dairy colony.

The Chief Secretary was tasked with crafting a comprehensive roadmap delineating future plans for the management and regulation of dairy colonies. This roadmap, due by 24-05-2024, was mandated to be formulated in consultation with petitioners, ensuring inclusivity and transparency in decision-making processes.

[Sunayana Sibal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2024 SCC OnLine Del 3529, decided on 08-05-2024]

*Judgment by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Advocates for the Petitioners: Vivek Sibal, Sr. Adv, Smriti Sinha, Esha Dutta, Shaalini Agrawal, Shriyanshi Pathak

Advocates for Respondents 1-3: Nipun Katyal, Advocate with Naved Ahmed, Dhananjai Shekhawat

Advocates for FSSAI: Rakesh Chaudhary, Sushaar Chaudhary,

Advocate for DPCC: Biraja Mahapatra

Advocates for MCD: Manu Chaturvedi, Standing Counsel, Devika Singh

Advocates for DUSIB: Parvinder Chauhan, Standing Counsel, Aakriti Garg.

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