NGT Refrains from Levying Environmental Compensation on Ladakh, Notes Chief Secretary’s Statement

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has refrained from levying environmental compensation on the Union Territory of Ladakh for improper management of solid and liquid waste, after noting the area’s “ground situation” and the statement of the UT’s chief secretary that adequate funds will be made available for handling the waste.

The NGT is monitoring compliance with Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and other environmental issues by states and Union territories.

A bench of chairperson Justice A K Goel said it was the Union territory’s constitutional responsibility and absolute liability to provide a pollution-free environment, which was a part of the right to life, besides a basic human right, and that the UT had to arrange necessary funds from contributors or others.

The bench also comprising judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel said lack of funds or absence of other resources such as sites for waste management cannot be a plea to deny such right and such resources have to be found by the UT through its policies and by giving due priority to the subject.

“Compliance with environmental norms on the subject of waste management has to be on high priority. It is high time that the UT realises its duty to the law and to citizens and adopts further monitoring at its own level,” the bench said.

Noting the presentation filed on behalf of the administrator of Ladakh, the bench said there were gaps in the management of solid and liquid waste. While 6.18 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste generated at Leh was being totally processed, 4.56 TPD of waste at Kargil remained unprocessed and for liquid waste, there was a gap of 15 million litres per day (MLD) between the generation of sewage and its treatment.

“Since on pattern of compensation awarded in respect of other states where gaps have been found in waste generation and management, the estimated cost of remediation is about Rs 30 crore, the Advisor to the Administrator fairly stated that such amount will be allocated for the purpose and transferred to a separate account preferably within one month,” the bench said.

The green panel observed, “We refrain from directions for levy of environmental compensation against Ladakh having regard to the ground situation in the said area and also in view of statement voluntarily made by the Chief Secretary that adequate funds will be made available and the entire estimated cost of handling solid and liquid waste will be provided by way of deposit in appropriate accounts.”

It said the mechanism and planning for remedial measures had to be finalised within a month and six-monthly progress reports with verifiable progress had to be filed before the tribunal.

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