BENGALURU: Initiating suo motu proceedings based on the news report, “Oily discharge from Mangaluru Refinery Polluting Water Bodies”, published in The New Indian Express on October 1, 2021, the Karnataka Lokayukta on Monday, October 4, 2021, directed the authorities to take immediate steps to prevent Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) from discharging effluents into water bodies.
“The news report published in The New Indian Express, in my considered view, can be treated as the source material to initiate suo motu proceedings in exercising powers conferred under Sections 7(1)(b) and 9(3)(a) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984. Accordingly, the office is directed to register this as suo motu proceedings,” Lokayukta Justice P Vishwanatha Shetty said in the order. The New Indian Express report highlighted that MRPL discharges blackish oily water into a stormwater drain, contaminating Thokur stream and River Phalguni.
Lokayukta raps KSPCB over water pollution
The local residents had protested against the release of untreated water into the waterbodies by the refinery, saying they cannot use water from the stream and river for domestic purposes. Justice Shetty pointed out that the report highlights that the residents are facing the problem for the last six years.“If what is highlighted is true, it indicates to me that there is a dereliction of duty of the public servants of the State who are required to prevent discharge of effluent substances into the water bodies, as the right to a healthy environment and pollution-free water is a part of the right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” he said.
Referring to several judgements of the Supreme Court on the role of deputy commissioners and district magistrates in protecting the environment, the Lokayukta said the authorities not only have the responsibility to prevent the discharge of polluting substances into water bodies, they also have the duty and obligation to assess the damage caused to members of the public on account of discharge of effluent substances and compensate the loss.
Extracting provisions of the Environment Protect Act and Water Act, the Lokayukta said the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking effective steps to prevent environmental pollution by not only initiating criminal prosecution against the owners of a polluting industry and also by stopping the functioning of the industry by giving necessary directions. “However, as could be seen from the report published in TNIE, KSPCB appears to have failed in taking effective steps,” the Lokayukta opined.