Observing that there is an “emergency” situation pertaining to the environment, the National Green Tribunal has modified the functioning of the committee entrusted with monitoring remedial measures at the Bandhwari landfill site in Gurugram.
The tribunal was hearing two petitions claiming a failure by the authorities concerned to maintain environmental norms for handling and disposing of legacy municipal solid waste – of around 33 lakh metric tonnes — at the landfill site.
In September 2022, the tribunal directed the state authorities to deposit Rs 100 crore in a ring-fenced account for the restoration of the environment along with forming a nine-member committee to monitor remedial measures.
Noting the committee’s report, a bench comprising Chairperson Justice AK Goel said it was “disappointed at the state of affairs” and that there was “no credible progress in the matter”.
The bench, also comprising Judicial Member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Expert Members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad, said there was “no clear and sound roadmap for achieving targets” and “no defined accountability and ownership”.
It said there had to be ownership and accountability, measurable targets and rigorous monitoring, which required a review of processes, agencies or people engaged in the process, including modification of the committee.
“Accordingly, we direct that the oversight committee will now be headed by the chief secretary, Haryana, who will be mainly assisted by the commissioners, municipal corporations, Gurgaon and Faridabad (who will act as nodal agencies for all purposes, subject to orders of the chief secretary),” the bench said.
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The deputy commissioners of the Greater Gurgaon Metropolitan Development Authority and the regional officer of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are to be “suitably associated in the process”, the bench added.
“The problem is hanging for long to the utter detriment of the environment and public health. The situation is of emergency and the Chief Secretary may hold meetings with concerned (people) at least once in a week…,” the tribunal said.
The green panel said ownership and accountability, including consequences for not meeting targets, had to be defined with clarity and past failures remedied.
“With such a changed approach, we expect progress on the ground which is of utmost necessity in the interest of the environment and public health,” the tribunal added.
The progress report of compliance status as on March 31 has to be filed before the tribunal by April 15, it said.
The matter has been listed for hearing on April 20.