NGT asks 4 firms to pay ₹286 cr for creating ‘gas chamber’ like condition in Mumbai

Press Trust of India New Delhi | Updated on August 14, 2020

The National Green Tribunal has held four companies, including BPCL and HPCL, responsible for creating “gas chamber” like condition” in Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas in Mumbai and directed them to pay ₹286.2 crore for the damaged caused to the environment.

The NGT said though there may be many reasons for presence of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere, it cannot be denied that Sea Lord Containers Ltd (SLCL), Aegis Logistics Ltd (ALL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) contribute substantially and predominantly to the VOCs in Mahul and Ambapada villages.

The prolonged exposure to hazardous air pollutants even at miniscule level may weaken the lungs and other organs. Conditions prevailing in the area are sometimes likened to that of ‘Gas Chamber’, the tribunal said.

It was only because of these reasons that the companies had been taking actions to arrest the fugitive emissions which were particularly noticeable after 2015 and of late the industries have acted on implementation of action plan, the NGT said.

It accepted the computation of fine by the Central Pollution Control Board and directed it to keep the amount in separate accounts.

The green panel said: CPCB has accordingly assessed the values of VOCs emissions based upon the data provided to them by the companies. In view of the submissions made by the CPCB and above discussion, the objections of the units regarding use of data prior to control measures and the incorrect application of the formula and methodology are untenable.

The NGT said it was satisfied that all the objections raised by the respondent companies have been duly considered by the CPCB’s in-house Technical Committee and the correctness of the conclusion arrived at by the CPCB.

The NGT directed HPCL to pay ₹76.5 crore, BPCL ₹67.5 crore, AEGIS ₹142 crore and SLCL ₹0.2 crore.

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said ten-member joint committee comprising two senior nominees of CPCB, representative of Environment Ministry, state pollution control board, District Magistrate, NEERI, TISS, Mumbai, IIT Mumbai, KEM Hospital, Mumbai and a nominee of Health Secretary Maharashtra, may prepare action plan for restoration measures.

Nodal agency

The State PCB will be nodal agency. Plan may in particular provide for dealing with health issues of the inhabitants and measures for control of pollution in the area, treating Ambapada, Mahul, Chembur and contiguous area (as may be specified by the Committee) to be Special Air Pollution Control Area for the restoration plan, the Bench said.

The joint Committee will be free to take assistance from any other expert/institution and invite the respondents to key meetings.

It will be open to the committee to hold virtual meetings. Absence of one or more members for any reason may not hold up the functioning of the committee if other members feel appropriate to proceed further in such absence. The plan may be executed under the same committee through the respondents themselves or otherwise, the Bench said.

The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Mumbai resident Charudatt Koli seeking execution for control of air pollution in the Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas in Mumbai particularly by the companies.

Major contributors to the air pollution were said to be the logistic services, storing oil, gas and chemical items, as well as oil companies releasing emissions of VOCs during loading, storage and unloading or handling of hazardous chemicals at various stages, the plea said.

Published on August 14, 2020

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