The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal has imposed an environmental compensation of ₹100 crore on Kochi Municipal Corporation for its continuing neglect of duties, resulting in the crisis at its wastage dump site at Brahmapuram following the major fire on March 2.
The Bench led by chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel issued an order directing the civic body to deposit the money with the Chief Secretary within a month for necessary remediation measures and to address the health issues faced by people who had inhaled the toxic fumes from the dump site.
“Apart from above, we direct the Chief Secretary, Kerala to fix accountability of concerned officers for such gross failures and initiate action under criminal law as well as by way of departmental proceedings, following due process and place the same in public domain within two months,” it said.
The Bench issued the orders after it took suo motu notice of reports of a fire in the media.
The Bench said the State of Kerala and its authorities had been in utter failure and had rampantly violated the statutory solid waste management rules and orders of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition No. 888/1996, Almitra H. Patel vs. Union of India & Ors and various orders of the tribunal since December 2016.
No accountability for such serious failure has been fixed, and no senior person has been held accountable. Except for giving future plans, no fixing of responsibility is proposed even now, which is a matter of regret. No prosecution has been launched against the guilty of criminal offences under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and also under relevant provisions of IPC, nor action taken for violation of orders of the Supreme Court and repeated orders of this Tribunal in proceedings transferred to the Tribunal by the Supreme Court. Such an attitude of State authorities threatens the rule of law. It said we hope the situation is remedied at the higher level in the State.
The Bench asked the State Police Chief and the Chief Secretary to uphold the Constitution and the mandate of environmental law.
Meanwhile, the Kochi mayor M Anil Kumar said the corporation would go for an appeal against the NGT order, as the compensation is too hefty, which would put the corporation into a financial crisis. The civic body, he said, is taking all steps in waste disposal as per the directions of the empowered committee appointed by the Kerala High Court in this regard.