CHENNAI: The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has refused to grant relief for drinking water packaging units, on the city’s outskirts, that were operating without valid consent from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
Eight units had moved the tribunal challenging the pollution control board’s order, arguing their consent applications were ‘unreasonably’ kept pending and that they should be allowed to operate. However, the green bench made it clear that the units can’t carry any activity without the board’s consent.
With packaged drinking water becoming a lucrative business in the face of severe water crisis, several unauthorised units have cropped up in the city.
Nearly 33 units at Mathur, Manjambakkam, Madhavaram, Puzhal and Vadaperumbakkam, on the city’s outskirts, were found to be operating without consent from TNPCB. These units were allegedly drawing groundwater illegally.
Following this, the Board passed the closure order in March under Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, and Section 31A of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and directed disconnection of power supply.
To operate a drinking water packaged unit, the project proponent should specify the land classification, obtain no-objection from Metropolitan and Area Ground Water (Division) of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board and approval from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. These particulars are mandatory to apply for consent before the TNPCB.
A report by district environmental engineer, Ambattur, to TNPCB member-secretary dated May 24 revealed that 33 units were violating norms. Madhavaram tahsildar had already shut them down.
Meanwhile, Metrowater officials said only three applications were pending before them. Also, before giving NOC, the board should undertake an assessment of the impact as per an order of the Madras High Court last year.
So, the tribunal made it clear that the project proponents should follow all conditions. Each unit should maintain records on the transport and quality of water used, which should be made available to board officials at any time for inspection.
That apart, the tahsildar would always be entitled to visit the units to ensure that water was not drawn illegally.