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NGT turns watchdog for protection of environment in TN

- September 11, 2021

Chennai, September 11 (IANS)

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal( NGT) is turning into a major savior and a watchdog for the protection of environment in the state of Tamil Nadu. The agency has intervened in several environmental degradation issues and has brought the erring agencies to task by timely action getting praise from the common man and the nongovernmental organisations that work in the field of environment conservation and protection.

The tribunal has recently constituted a panel comprising of scientists and environmentalists recommended a penalty of Rs 48 lakh on three village panchayaths, Muttukadu, Navalur and Padur in Chengalpattu district  as they failed to comply with the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.

It is to be noted that the Supreme Court of India and the Principal Bench of the NGT at New Delhi has set March 2020 as deadline for all local bodies to comply with Solid Waste Management (SWM) rules.

The committee constituted by the Southern Bench of the NGT decided to fine the local bodies an interim fine of Rs 1 lakh per month from April 2020 till August 2021 on each of these panchayaths.

Water samples collected from the backwaters in these panchayaths found the presence of coliform bacteria which clearly indicated that untreated sewage and leachate from the solid waste was dumped along the banks. The study also found that the Biological Oxygen on Demand did not meet any water quality prescribed by the Pollution Control Board.

Mahesh Vasudevan, an officer with a Public sector bank and an avid environmental watcher while speaking to IANS said, “The Southern Bench of the NGT is intervening in issues that have a footprint in the lives of common man and bringing results. This is important. It is happy to note that an agency is working proactively to protect the environment within its framework.”

The Southern Bench of the NGT had in June 2021 called upon the Tamil Nadu Pollution control board and the Tirunelveli corporation to provide immediate report on the position of the Thamirabarani river. The NGT had then slammed the state government, TNPCB and Tirunelveli corporation that despite several intimations from the tribunal. The officials replied with the Action taken reports on the temporary measures taken by them but the bench came out strongly and said that the work being done to clear the river of pollution was not satisfactory.

After the intervention of the NGT bench, the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control board acted and have taken measures to protect Thamirabarani river from getting polluted. The TNPCB in a report submitted before NGT on 8th September 2021 said that the board has directed the district administrator to put necessary sign boards across the banks of the river and to monitor any sewage or waste being deposited in the river. It also stated in its report that there were not illegal sand mining taking place on the banks of Thamirabarani river.

In another case of NGT intervention, the Southern Bench comprising of Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member, K. Satyagopal has issued notice to the Government of Tamil Nadu for its failure to formulate a state action plan for air pollution and it implement in 2020 as envisaged in the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).  The NCAP is a national level strategy launched by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2019 that emphasizes comprehensive mitigation strategies and an effective ambient air quality monitoring network.

R. Periyaswamy of the Institute for Environmental Studies, Coimbatore an NGO doing research and intervention on degradation of environment, while speaking to IANS said, “There has to be a watchdog which monitors and gives strict warnings to those in power. Here in the case of pollution being carried out unabatedly in the rivers and water bodies of the state as well as the failure of the government to monitor air quality, the NGT has acted as a watchdog. The timely intervention of the Southern Bench of the NGT has given results from the environment agencies of the state government which was unexpected. This shows that if someone is behind the government with a whip, results will come and for this, the NGT has to be given full credit.”