NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of Maharashtra to review its workings and asked the Ministry of Environment to provide standard operating procedures (SOPS) to be adopted for dealing with clearances without hurting the environment.
A bench headed by NGT's Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel gave the directions while hearing an appeal by one Tanaji B. Gambhire, preferred against the order of SEIAA, Maharashtra dated March 31, 2020, granting environmental clearance (EC) for the construction project "Ganga Altus" in Kharadi, Pune, to project proponent (PP) Goel Ganga India Private Limited.
The Green Court observed that there have been several cases resting in Pune Bench of NGT (now being heard regularly virtually by the Bench of Chairperson, Justice Goel) referring to construction projects having either no ECs or post-facto clearance with no environmental compensation imposed on such blatantly violating projects.
The Tribunal also directed the Ministry of Environment to review the functioning of SEIAA of Maharashtra and along with providing SOPs to be adopted for dealing with clearances without hurting environmental issues. The Tribunal asked the Ministry of Environment to act and file a compliance report.
"Since we are coming across the grievance of continuous violation of environment norms in construction projects being completed without prior EC and the SEIAA, Maharashtra is neither requiring demolition nor payment of assessed compensation to comply with the rule of law and protection of the environment, it will be appropriate to require the SEIAA, Maharashtra to review its working in the light of the judgments of the Supreme Court and violations frequently being alleged, including the present case," the tribunal said.
It said a proper SOP should be laid down for grant of EC in such cases so as to address the gaps in binding law and practice that is being currently followed. NGT said the Ministry of Environment may also consider circulating such SOP to all SEIAAs across the country.
"In this regard, we may refer to the directions in the earlier order of this Tribunal dated February 1 in OA 837/2018, Sandeep Mittal vs. Ministry of Environment, wherein it was inter-alia, directed--Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change may give due attention for proper constitution of SEIAAs in the States to ensure the projects of category 'B' and 'B-1' are properly scrutinized---The Ministry of Environment may file its action taken report in the matter before the next date," the tribunal said.
The NGT also directed to concerned authorities to constitute a joint committee of the Ministry of Environment, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board to look into the present matter and suggest a remedial action plan for the present case, including the quantum of compensation to be recovered, as far as possible within three months.
"The CPCB and State PCB will be the nodal agencies for coordination and compliance," NGT added.