NEW DELHI: Pollution from Bhutan's Pasakha industrial belt has deeply affected the lives of citizens as well as flora and fauna in Alipurduar district of West Bengal, a plea said Monday in the Supreme Court which asked the Centre to file its response. The industrial town is located near the Indian border.
A bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai also issued notices to the Ministry of External Affairs, the West Bengal government, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), West Bengal State Pollution Control Board and Municipal corporation of Alipurduar seeking their replies on the plea.
The plea, filed by NGO Cooch Behar Himalayan Nature Development Society, has alleged that Pasakha industrial belt of Bhutan was established in 1991 and ever since, the residents of Alipurduar districts have been living under "environmentally hazardous conditions".
Advocate Sukriti Kashyap, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that pollution has also affected the tea estate workers in the area.
The plea said that Alipurduar is geographically located at the India-Bhutan border and not only the inhabitants but wildlife of Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary and Buxa Tiger Reserve are also "adversely affected" due to the polluted water body in the area.
It claimed that the Centre and authorities concerned have "completely failed to take any proactive step" to initiate any consultation or deliberation with Government of Bhutan on the issue of pollution originating from Pasakha industrial belt.
"The three rivers, Bhalu Jora, Singhi Jora and Basra originate from the Himalayas of Bhutan and flow into the Indian terrain to form Kaljani river. Kaljani river is highly contaminated with industrial effluent and untreated waste generated from Pasakha, so much so that it has deeply affected the lives of the inhabitants of Alipurduar with various skin diseases and respiratory disorders," it said.
It claimed that industrially polluted water of Kaljani river is also used for irrigation in Rangamati tea estate, which leads to further deterioration of quality of tea produced there.
"The Dolomite miners of Pasakha Industrial Belt in Bhutan do not adhere to the principles of international environmental law and due to their disregard for the same, they release the ash in the open air which travels to the Indian terrain because the wind direction is perpetually travelling in the direction of North West Bengal," it alleged.
"The present case is not only the case of the violations against the citizens of India residing in Alipurduar, North Bengal but also a case of disregard for the sovereign state of India by the neighbouring state," the plea claimed.
It said that hygienic environment is an integral facet of the right to healthy life but environmental degradation caused due to pollution in Pasakha industrial belt violates the right to healthy life of residents of Alipurduar and adjoining areas.
It said India and Bhutan both are signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their disposal.
The plea said that as per Article 12 of the convention, the parties shall cooperate with a view to adopting, as soon as practicable, a protocol setting out appropriate rules and procedures in the field of liability and compensation for damage resulting from the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes and other wastes.
The plea has sought constitution of a committee to scrutinise and determine the quantum of damage that has been caused due to the pollution and decide the compensation and rehabilitation plan for the citizens as well as flora and fauna in Alipurduar.
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