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NGT imposes ₹900-cr fine on Delhi govt for improper management of solid waste

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the Delhi government to pay 900 crore as environmental compensation for improper management of solid municipal waste, stating that “citizens cannot be faced with an emergency situation due to lack of governance.”

Around 80% of the legacy waste at the three landfill sites — Ghazipur, Bhalswa, and Okhla — was not remedied, according to a bench chaired by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel. The amount of legacy waste at the three dumpsites was 300 lakh metric tonnes.

The bench, which included expert members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad as well as Justice Sudhir Agarwal, stated that the scenario painted a bleak picture of an environmental emergency in the national capital. “Citizens cannot be faced with an emergency situation due to lack of governance,” the bench said. 

The bench noted that groundwater contamination, continuous methane and other harmful gas emissions, and even the most basic safety precautions against recurrent fires were not taken.

“Needless to repeat the hazardous consequences of accumulated and unscientifically stored huge quantum of garbage which are mountains,” the bench said. 

The green tribunal further said that scarce and costly public land was occupied by the waste dumpsites. pointing towards the financial cost of the negligence, the bench stated, “The area is 152 acres and its price even at a conservative rate is more than 10,000 crore at the applicable circle rate and thus the urgency to retrieve the said public asset for beneficial public use.”

According to the NGT, the relevant authorities failed to uphold the public trust doctrine in order to safeguard the environment and the general public’s health.

It further said, “Steps taken so far do not meet the mandate of law and are not commensurate to the grim factual emergency situation, constantly threatening the safety and health of citizens and the environment with no accountability of officers entrusted with the task.”

The NGT stated that in order to resolve the issue, immediate action as well as a fresh, considerate strategy in mission mode were needed.

Fixing accountability of the state authorities for past violations, the bench said, “We hold the National Capital Territory of Delhi liable to pay environmental compensation of 900 crore having regard to the quantity of undisposed waste which is to the extent of three crore metric tonnes at the three landfill sites.”

The amount could be put into a ring-fenced account to be run on the chief secretary of Delhi’s instructions for environmental restoration through waste remediation and other measures, the bench said.

Additionally, it instructed the authorities to make sure that current waste was disposed of in accordance with standards and was not added to legacy waste sites.

According to the tribunal, turfing landfill sites—the planting of at least three rows of tall, quick-growing native trees around the perimeter of the sites—could help control stench and enhance aesthetics.

The bench stated that the authorities could also build a tourism and recreation facility.

It was stated that the already established 13-member monitoring committee, led by the chief secretary, could coordinate with any other relevant departments and enlist the help of any additional experts or institutions to hasten the creation and implementation of the action plan.

The NGT mandated that an interim progress report be submitted by January 15, 2023, outlining the status of compliance as of December 31, 2022.

(With inputs from PTI)

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