New Delhi [India], September 13 (ANI): The National Green Tribunal on Monday remarked that business activities should not compromise public health and directed that the hot mix plants, beyond carrying capacity, that is, the air norms not being met, should be closed at the earliest, possibly from November 1, 2021.
The NGT directed that the hot mix plants beyond carrying capacity may be closed at the earliest and as far as possible from November 1, 2021, by the statutory regulators in the exercise of their jurisdiction under the Air Act, 1981 and the Environment Protection (EP) Act, 1986.
"In other words, no hot mix plant - old or new may be allowed beyond carrying capacity and without compliance of the laid down siting norms from November 1, 2021," said the NGT bench headed by its chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.
Further, the bench said that the sustainable development principle requires that the business activity should not compromise public health, and this requires the study of carrying capacity.
The bench, henceforth, is directed to constitute a seven-member joint committee that will have statutory authorities and subject matter experts to look into the issue and to give a science-based expert report.
The committee will comprise of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Professor Mukesh Khare of IIT Delhi, Professor Mukesh Sharma of IIT Kanpur, Professor Shiva Nagendran of IIT Chennai and others, and the proceedings may be steered by the Member Secretary of CPCB.
"The Committee may adopt any other expert institutions or individuals of repute. It may give its report in three months. Pending this report, Uttar Pradesh PCB not to allow non-compliant hot mix plants in terms of GRAP and the present carrying capacity study report," the bench said.
The court asked the joint committee to give a report on the issue relating to the operation of hot mix plants beyond 'carrying capacity'.
"We are of the opinion that, in view of the report in the present matter, that the carrying capacity in the area is negative, that is, the air norms are not being met, while benign activity not adding to the pollution can be allowed, polluting activity can be allowed only by ensuring that it does not add to the air pollution, by taking such stringent measures as may achieve the desired result and may not adversely affect public health. Such measures may be the use of appropriate technology, mitigation measures like dense forest shelter belts etc," the NGT bench said.
The bench said that carrying capacity has not been assessed with reference to the average air quality for the months when it is comparatively inferior.
The bench said that the hot mix plants may operate even in winter, which are fast approaching. There is no justification in law for the recommendations that only new hot mix plants may not be allowed and the old hot mix plants may continue even at the cost of public health.
Further, there is also no justification for the recommendation that is laid down citing criteria should apply only to new establishments, the bench pointed out.
"While we have no option except to enforce the environmental norms and stop hot mix plants not sustainable due to lack of carrying capacity, we are mindful of difficulty which will arise not only for the operators of such plants but also those who need such services. While GRAP is already operative which results in closure of certain polluting activities on the deterioration of air quality, to maintain air standards further restrictions on polluting activities are necessary for the interest of public health," the NGT said.
The NGT said at the same time, ways and means need to be explored to sustain such activities to the extent possible without adversely affecting public health.
"Since PM concentrations in the Central Indian/Indo-Gangetic Plains are higher compared to Southern and East and North-Eastern parts of the country, to maintain regional balance in Developmental and industrial activities throughout the country and to support the economy as well as the need of public, it is necessary that better technological options and advanced air pollution abatement measures are explored which enable the sustainability of such activities," the NGT said.
The NGT was hearing the issue for consideration of permissibility of operation of hot mix plants in Noida beyond 'carrying capacity' of the ambient air of the area as per the assessment of the statutory regulators - the CPCB and the State PCB, thereby adversely affecting the environment and the public health. (ANI)