The National Green Tribunal has, for the time being, refrained from imposing a fine of Rs 1,000 crore on Assam for improper management of solid and liquid waste.
The NGT withheld the environmental compensation after noting the state has committed more than Rs 1,000 crore for the management of solid waste, legacy and liquid waste. A bench chaired by Justice A K Goel, the chairperson of the green tribunal, noted the data presented by Assam's chief secretary and said there were gaps in the management of waste.
The bench, also comprising judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad said it was the constitutional responsibility of the state and the local bodies to provide a pollution-free environment.
There is no time for leisure, as reflected in the timelines proposed for bridging the acknowledged gaps, the bench said adding, compliance with environmental norms on waste management has to be a high priority.
“We hope in the light of interaction with the Chief Secretary, the state of Assam will take further measures in the matter by an innovative approach and stringent monitoring, ensuring that gaps in solid (unprocessed 752 tonnes per day and 33 lakh tonnes of legacy waste) and liquid waste (435 million litres per day) generation and treatment are bridged at the earliest, shortening the proposed timelines, adopting alternative or interim measures to the extent and wherever found viable,” the bench said.
Restoration plans need to be executed at the earliest simultaneously in all districts, cities, towns and villages in a time-bound manner immediately and the district magistrates monitor sewage and solid waste management, it said.
The NGT said the chief secretary must ensure overall compliance with the norms. Determining the quantum of compensation, the green panel said in normal circumstances, the state was liable to pay a compensation of around Rs 1,000 crore. But the state had submitted an undertaking that Rs 1,043 crore would be soon credited to a separate ring-fenced account for the management of solid and liquid waste, the tribunal said.
“In view of the undertaking given, we refrain from levying environmental compensation (EC) on the state of Assam for time being and the ring-fenced account will be non-lapsable,” the it said. The tribunal directed the chief secretary to file six-monthly progress reports with verifiable progress. The NGT is monitoring compliance with Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and other environmental issues by states and union territories.
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