Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi: The Coram of Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), J. and S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member), JJ. and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) heard an application filed by the petitioner, regarding the issue of control of forest fires and laid down guidelines for effective implementation of the action plan.

The present matter pertained to the menace of forest fires. Background of this matter was that in earlier orders of this Tribunal, it had sought a report on fire alerts, mapping of forest areas which are critical and vulnerable, steps for fire line cutting as preventive measures for forest fires. A National Policy was directed to be prepared and periodically updated under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) adopted a National Action Plan on Forest Fire (NAPFF) to minimize forest fires and allied issues through communication, awareness and sharing of information on portals. The problem being of continuous nature, policies and implementation were required to be reviewed from time to time by an institutional mechanism. Apart from forest fires, the issue of its impact on the general public and wildlife are also needed to be addressed. Nodal officer at the central level, preferably Inspector General, in the Forest Protection Division in the MoEF&CC was to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the NAPFF with the States.

A miscellaneous application was filed by the applicant herein in the present original application stating that incidents of forest fires were on the increase as per reports published on the internet, and the issue required more effective steps for implementation. The Tribunal sought a report from the MoEF&CC, and after interaction with the Inspector General of Forest (In- charge, Forest Protection and Forest Fire), it gave the following guidelines:

(i) Though a comprehensive action plan had been duly adopted, its implementation required a robust institutional mechanism in view of the increase in the incidents of forest fires.

(ii) Institutional mechanism for preventing and controlling forest fires may comprise of representatives of the MoEF&CC, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Wildlife Institute of India, National Disaster Management Authority, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Forest Survey of India (FSI) and the National Remote Sensing Centre representing the Central Government on one hand; and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of all the States/Union Territories on the other hand.

(iii) The Central Monitoring Committee will be headed by the Secretary of MoEF&CC with seven members mentioned in point no. (ii) above. The Secretary would be free to add any member or expert, apart from special invitees, if any.

(iv) Central Monitoring Committee must meet once in three months and address all the issues arising out of forest fires, including the effective implementation of NAPFF.

(v) The Tribunal also noted that from the NAPFF, a national level database must be developed for burnt area assessment on a yearly basis.

(vi) Standardized protocols and procedures must be developed by ICFRE and FSI to facilitate the reporting of the area affected and losses due to the forest fire.

(vii) ICFRE was also directed to assist in designing and organizing adequate training programs for forest officials at various levels.

(viii) The Secretary, MoEF&CC may issue directions for the constitution of an appropriate institutional mechanism at State levels also.

The application was disposed of in the above terms.[Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 75, decided on 28-05-2019]

Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018 on March 27, 2018.  The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”

The amended Rules also prescribe a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.  The Rules also lay down that any mechanism for the registration should be automated and should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers. The centralised registration system will be evolved by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.  While a national registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two States, a State-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two States. In addition, Rule 15 of the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 on “explicit pricing of carry bags” has been omitted.

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

Underlining the effort to protect the environment and human health from infectious bio-medical waste, the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 Rules have been amended to improve compliance and strengthen the implementation of environmentally sound management of biomedical waste in India.

These amendments have been made vide Notification G.S.R. 234(E) dated 16-03-2018. The amendment was undertaken after consulting Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Boards, and Health Care Facilities.

The salient features of the Bio-Medical Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018 are

  • Bio-medical waste generators including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, dispensaries, veterinary institutions, animal houses, pathological laboratories, blood banks, health care facilities, and clinical establishments will have to phase out chlorinated plastic bags (excluding blood bags) and gloves by 27-03-2019.
  • All healthcare facilities shall make available the annual report on its website within a period of 2 years from date of publication of the Bio-Medical Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018.
  • Operators of common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities shall establish bar coding and global positioning system for handling of bio-medical waste in accordance with guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board by 27-03-2019.
  • The State Pollution Control Boards/Pollution Control Committees have to compile, review and analyze the information received and send its information to the Central Pollution Control Board in a new Form (Form IV A), which seeks detailed information regarding district-wise bio-medical waste generation, information on Health Care Facilities having captive treatment facilities, information on common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities.
  • Every occupier, i.e. a person having administrative control over the institution and the premises generating biomedical waste shall pre-treat the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples, and blood bags through disinfection or sterilization on-site in the manner as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or guidelines on safe management of wastes from health care activities and WHO Blue Book 2014 and then sent to the Common bio-medical waste treatment facility for final disposal.

[Press Release no. 1526326, dt. 24-03-2018]

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT): While expressing concern over pollution caused due to illegal disposal of effluent and waste, NGT directed Century Pulp and Paper Ltd. to pay Rs 30 lakh as environmental compensation for failing in managing pollution caused due to the effluents discharged in the stream which joins Gola River which flows into Ram Ganga and finally into Ganga. “The effluents exceeding the permissible norms being released in the environment are bound to cause environmental imbalance placing the flora and fauna under illegitimate stress and in the long run such effluents are bound to have deleterious effect on the environment. Considering the period of industrial activity and the volume of daily effluent generated we are of the considered opinion that the respondent no. 6- paper industry is liable to pay damages of Rs 30 lakhs,” the Tribunal noted. Said directions of the Tribunal came upon an application filed by an environmental activist and Member Secretary of organisation “People for Animals for Uttrakhand”, seeking directions to immediately stop discharge of harmful toxic effluents without any treatment and disposing wastes in forest and other revenue areas. After going through all the material on record, NGT noted that the paper industry had contributed to the environmental pollution in some measure and the degree of contribution to pollution is immaterial while deciding the liability of polluter. After imposing fine upon the Paper Company, NGT also constituted a team of senior scientists from the department of Environment Science, University of Jammu, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and IIT Roorkee, to carry out survey and study of the area and the Gola River to ascertain environmental degradation caused and also suggest remedial measures for restoration of environment. Century Pulp and Paper Ltd. was also directed to pay a cost of Rs three lakh to the applicant. [Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India, Original Application No. 486 of 2014, decided on May 4, 2016]