Environment Day in Supreme Court


By: Vijay Panjwani, Advocate.


Two different Hon’ble Benches showed interest in moving on with the dusty files placed before them for directions. In a departure from the line ‘this is not our job’ to ‘its taken years someone must do something ‘. In the first case while dealing with the custom duty non-payment problem of import of dirty hazardous waste oil in very costly stainless steel, the court’s attention was drawn to the issue of contaminated ground water in Bhopal DoW Chemical/UCC plant. After the world’s largest gas leak disaster in 1984 slowly hazardous water from the contaminated plant has contaminated ground water table. Therefore, no ground water can be drawn for human consumption. It did not take long for the court to grasp the situation begging remedial action. Considering all aspects the court directed Central Pollution Control Board to inspect the site and file an inspection report before 18th April, 2012. The report would show the cause and the extent of contamination. CPCB normally gives its recommendations in all reports for remedial measures to be taken to restore the ground water quality to comply to prescribed environmental standards. The only problem is that the order of 28th has not been uploaded in Supreme Court website till 5-30 PM Friday 30th March 2012. In the absence of copy of order no action can be taken. The next week has four days off thursday to sunday, signs of in-built delays.

Then came the turn of supply of highly polluted drinking water from Bhopal Municipal Corporation [ Nagar Nigam] to neighbourhood residents of UCC/DoW plant. It is alleged that the water pipe is laid near the open drain [Naali] carrying kitchen and bathroom waste water. The waste water leaks into the pipeline making the water supply sometimes normal and at times foul smelling. Complaints have not rectified the situation. CPCB would be looking in this too. Besides the State Government and Nagar Nigam have been directed to remove the contamination in the ground water and to ensure safe pollutant free drinking water supply within two weeks. Strangely neither counsel nor any officer was present in court during the 90 minute proceedings on behalf of the state or nagar nigam. On general inquiry from courtroom full of lawyers none answered the call and this was recorded in the order. Such unconcern and bravado is not seen every day.

In the second case a large copper manufacturer was directed to dispose of gypsum dust and gypsum sludge only to ‘need based’ customers. The purchaser has to prove an on-going road or brick making project or any other lawful use for safe disposal. The bunch of lawyers did not take it gracefully but then tomorrow is always a new day and we get back into normal mode.


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