New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty of over Rs 2,000 crore on the Punjab government for its failure to treat solid and liquid waste.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said corrective action and health issues cannot wait for an indefinite period. "Responsibility of the State is to have a comprehensive plan to control pollution which is its absolute liability, which is not being understood. "If there is a deficit in budgetary allocations, it is for the state and the state alone to have suitable planning by reducing cost or augmenting resources,'' the bench said.
The NGT said that Punjab cannot avoid its responsibility on the pretext of a shortage of central funds and if there was a deficit in budgetary allocations, it was for the state to have suitable planning by reducing costs or augmenting resources. It said that compliance with environmental norms on the subject of waste management has to be a high priority. The NGT calculated the total environmental compensation to be paid by Punjab at Rs 2,180 crore.
It noted that out of this, the Punjab government has already deposited Rs 100 crore with the tribunal for its failure to prevent the discharge of untreated sewage and solid waste.
"The remaining amount of Rs 2,080 crore may be deposited by the State of Punjab in a separate ring-fenced account within two months," the bench said.
NGT is monitoring compliance with Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and other environmental issues by states and Union territories.
The green panel said that compensation to be paid by the violator has to be equal to the loss to the environment and take into account the cost of remediation.
The tribunal noted that there were a large number of unauthorised colonies across the state and the gap in generation and treatment of sewage was not less than 1000 million litres per day (MLD).
“Till the gaps are bridged, untreated liquid waste will continue to remain a source of degradation of the environment and damage to public health, including deaths and diseases which the society can ill afford,” the bench said adding, “Providing clean air, clean water, hygiene, and environment have to be the top most priorities for good governance.
“Are there insurmountable difficulties for state authorities or lack of will and determination? We find it difficult to believe the first. In our view, it is the lack of good governance and determination responsible for the situation which needs to be remedied,” the bench said.
The bench then said that it hoped that the state of Punjab would take further measures in the matter by an innovative approach and thorough stringent monitoring.
“Existing and upcoming sewage treatment plants (STPs) need to have linkages with industries and other bulk users including agriculture or horticulture for using treated sewage,” the bench said.
More and more green belts or dense forests are required to be set up to mitigate the adverse impact of waste, the NGT said.
The bench further said the restoration measures for sewage management would include setting up sewage treatment and utilization systems, and upgrading systems or operations of existing sewage treatment facilities to ensure utilization of their full capacities.
For solid waste management, the execution plan would include setting up of required waste processing plants and remediation of left-out sites along with bio-remediation or bio-mining process being executed as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines, the bench said.
The green panel further said that the state government was free to raise funds from contributors of waste in an appropriate manner and restoration plans required to be executed at the earliest across the state in a time-bound manner.
“Compliance will be the responsibility of the Chief Secretary for which a special senior level nodal secretary with a team of technical experts may be deputed immediately,” the bench said.