VIJAYAWADA: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday imposed penalties to the tune of more than Rs 243 crore as environmental compensation on Andhra Pradesh for what it called blatant violation of laws resulting in substantial damage to the environment while executing four irrigation projects.
The Principal bench of NGT, Delhi, directed the project proponents (PPs) — the State of Andhra Pradesh and its authorities — to pay the compensation amount within three months to the AP Pollution Control Board. The NGT, which completed hearing and reserved orders on August 9, pronounced the same on Thursday.
The NGT imposed environmental compensation at 1.5 per cent of the total cost of three projects while the compensation was imposed at 0.75 per cent for the Polavaram Multi-Purpose Irrigation Project as there was no violation with regard to getting other clearances.
“Besides, the appropriate authority shall also act under relevant statutory laws to take appropriate proceedings, including prosecution, against the project proponents and other violators, if any, for committing offences by violating environmental laws,’’ the NGT said. In the orders, the NGT said the project proponents of Polavaram shall pay environmental compensation of Rs 120 crore (0.75% of Rs 16,010 crore). The project cost of Rs 16,010 crore was shown as per the 2010-2011 price level. For Purushothapatnam LIS, the NGT ordered payment of Rs 24.56 crore as EC, while for Pattiseema LIS, the EC was pegged at Rs 24.9 crore and for Chintalapudi LIS, the EC was fixed at Rs 73.6 crore.
“The Environmental Compensation amount shall be paid by the concerned PPs to the APPCB within three months. The amount shall be utilised for remediation/restoration of the environment under the guidance and supervision of an oversight committee comprising officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central and AP Pollution Control Boards. The APPCB and CPCB will be the nodal agencies,’’ the NGT said.
The committee shall be constituted within one month and the remediation plan shall be prepared by the APPCB in consultation with the forests department within two months and shall be executed in six months. The NGT gave these orders after hearing various petitions filed by Pattipati Pulla Rao of Delhi, farmers from AP and others.
The Tribunal made certain observations in its orders castigating the State for violation of environmental laws. “A king can do no wrong. It is an old concept of sovereign immunity, recognised in English law. Unfortunately, in this matter too, we find that an attitude similar to the above notion has been adopted by the State of Andhra Pradesh and its authorities when they proceeded to launch/commission/execute a few lift irrigation schemes and a river linking project, by not following and observing mandatory laws, more appropriately, laws relating to environment. These laws have been given a complete go-by in one way or the other,’’ the NGT observed.
Further, the NGT said that it is a statutory and constitutional obligation of the State to take welfare steps for the benefit of people at large. “However, nobody can contend that for achieving such objects, observance of law is not necessary or State/Governments can violate, flout, breach and disobey statutory laws for proceeding with welfare activities and still can claim immunity from facing consequences.’’
“The government, while carrying out the projects, have resulted in huge destruction of assets from earth i.e., soil (top soil), sand, and also caused pollution of air, water, etc, as reported by committees in reports,’’ the NGT said. The fault is greater since the PPs have worked in blatant violation of the environmental laws. “Mandatory provisions have been breached unashamedly and no precautions have been taken to mitigate damage and degradation if protection/preservation as such was not possible. The PPs have also not felt any hesitation in placing wrong facts even before the Tribunal, this is what has disturbed us the most,’’ the NGT said.
Heavy cost of violations
- Polavaram - H120 cr as EC (0.75% of project cost of H16,010 cr
- Purushothapatnam LIS: H24.56 cr as EC
- Pattiseema LIS: H24.9 crore as EC
- Chintalapudi LIS: H73.6 crore as EC
What the order says
Environmental Compensation shall be paid to the APPCB within three months
- The amount shall be utilised for remediation/restoration of environment under guidance and supervision of a panel comprising officials of MoEF, Central and AP Pollution Control Boards
- Committee shall be constituted within one month and the remediation plan shall be prepared by the APPCB in consultation with the forests department within two months and shall be executed in six months