The National Green Tribunal has refrained from levying a Rs 750-crore environmental compensation on the Jharkhand government for improper management of solid and liquid waste.
The tribunal also noted the state government’s undertaking that Rs 1,114 crore had already been allocated for solid and liquid waste management.
According to data presented by the state’s chief secretary, there still existed huge gaps in management of solid and liquid waste, a bench comprising Chairperson Justice AK Goel said.
“…compensation of Rs 750 crore may be liable to be levied on the state but it does not appear to be necessary to do so in view of statement of the chief secretary that a sum of Rs 1,114 crore will be credited to a ring fenced account for being spent within one year to bridge the gaps in waste management by a specific action plan to be executed within one year,” the bench also comprising Judicial Member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Expert Member A Senthil Vel said.
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The bench observed that a paradigm shift in handling of the situation was required as the nagging problem of waste management stared the administration in the face and remained unresolved to the detriment of the environment and public health.
“First change required is to set up a centralised single-window mechanism for planning, capacity building and monitoring of waste management at the state level,” the bench said.
The single-window mechanism should be headed by an officer of the rank of additional chief secretary with representation from the departments of Urban Development, Rural Development, Environment and Forest, Agriculture, Water Resources, Fisheries and Industries, the bench said.
“The chief secretary fairly accepts that there is a gap of about 330 million litres per day (MLD) in sewage generation and treatment and legacy waste of 32 lakh metric tonnes (MT) and, in normal circumstances, the state would be liable to pay compensation of about Rs 750 crore at the scale of compensation fixed in other states,” the bench said.
The green panel, however, noted that according to an undertaking submitted by the authorities concerned, a higher amount of Rs 1,114 crore was allocated and would be soon credited to a separate ring-fenced account.
“In view of the undertaking given, we refrain from levying environmental compensation (EC) on the state of Jharkhand for time being,” the tribunal said.
It also directed the chief secretary to file six-monthly progress reports with verifiable progress.
The National Green Tribunal is monitoring compliance with Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and other environmental issues by states and Union Territories.