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Laggard in implementation of Legal Provisions culminated multiple Environmental Problems

3rd July 2019


India has plentiful of legal provisions to address environmental problems persisting in the nation. In the course of dealing with illegal water abstraction, on 2ndNovember 2018 the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) came out with an Office Memorandum that states approval or permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) or State Ground Water Authority (SGWA) shall be obtained before drawing groundwater for the project activities. State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) shall not issue Consent to Operate till the project proponent obtains such permission. Whether this order could have been implemented with the letter of spirit? There are several building constructed in different places adjacent to the national capital, where multiple basements were created by means of extraction of groundwater in an unethical manner. This has resulted in not only groundwater stress, but also culminated for health and social adverse situations due to improper management of stagnant water.

Rainwater harvesting was made a legal requirement by the CGWA in late 90s. It was also made a mandatory obligation by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2006. Leading NGOs like Centre for Science and Environment and many social champions like Rajendra Singh also advocated for adoption of rainwater harvesting throughout the nation. It was also taken seriously by the National Green Tribunal when government educational institutions failed to adopt and consequently faced with hefty penalties. The situation has been so grave that today Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India felt the need to communicate with the Indian nationals to adopt any available and feasible method to harness rainwater. Traditionally, India has numerous examples of water harvesting. In a small and comparatively interior village Baghapali in the western part of Odisha, predominantly occupied by tribes, two unsung social heroes; Nilamani Mishra and Dr. Debadutta Mishra have created pond like structures to retain rainwater that suffices their agricultural water needs. The Prime Minister, who is one of most popular leaders of the contemporary world, has infused the message with the mass. This is over and above the available laws to handle situation.

Concerns of air pollution comes seasonally. But a close look into the environmental clearances shows that number of diesel generators are still growing rapidly in the urban areas. Although it is defended through appropriate scientific models that individual contribution of projects with huge installed capacity of diesel generators, a cumulative effect could be significant. Adoption of renewable energy could be stressed to avert the aspects of air pollution. Climate Change has been a serious challenge to the world. India is reportedly going to be one of the most affected nations. Water management and tree plantation could certainly bring respite for the nation and its natural assets as well as human being. Experts like Padma Shri awardee Anil Prakash Joshi say that India has huge forest area, but no tree in the forests. Tree felling and transplantation of trees is another issue that has to be considered seriously. Ample legal provisions for tree plantation as compensatory measure are available in the instance of tree felling and transplantation of trees. Convincing data and display missing. 

Consistent communication and actions initiated by leaders show that the government is seriously working on the climate issue. There is a huge scope remaining unutilized by the implementing agencies. 

Water Emergency: Inevitable?

26th June 2019 


A recent report was highlighting that according to a 2018 Niti Ayog report, Delhi is among 21 Indian cities that is poised to run out of groundwater by 2020. Illegal constructions near reservoirs, over-extraction of groundwater, pollution in water bodies and wastage of residential water supply are some of reasons Delhi is running dry. Delhi has one of the highest percentages of households with piped water among all of India’s states and union territories. Another news is that Madhya Pradesh will be the first state in the country where Right to Water will be enacted to the Right to Water Act. According to the guidelines in the Right to Water Act, 55 litres of water per day for will be given for usage to each person. In India, Right to Water is a part of the Right to Life ensured under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. 

As dry summer is reeling, news of water scarcity problem and management issues prevailing across mass media as well as social media. At a time, when, the whole India was remembering the horrifying history of emergency in the 1970s, some experts are of the view to impose emergency on water. However, such demands are not new. This also happens during winters, when smog grips the northern part of the nation, many expert call for declaring emergency due to air pollution. Whether such demands are based on any scientific, political and administrative justification? 

During a national emergency, many Fundamental Rights of Indian citizens can be suspended. However, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty cannot be suspended according to the original Constitution. According to resources, in January 1977, during the controversially emergency declared by the then Prime Minister, Late Smt. Indira Gandhi, the government decided to suspend even the Right to Life and Personal Liberty by dispensing with Habeas corpus. Justice Hans Raj Khanna defended the Right to Life and asked: "Life is also mentioned in Article 21 and would Government argument extend to it also?” The Attorney General observed: "Even if life was taken away illegally, courts are helpless." A national emergency modifies the federal system of government to a unitary one by granting Parliament the power to make laws on the 66 subjects of the State List. Also, all state money bills are referred to the Parliament for its approval. Is it the basic reason, for which experts are asking for a national emergency on water scenario?

By the way, how can the Union Government carry out policing of water resources in the entire country? The major issues remains exploitation of groundwater resources. Several rules have been made under the statutory provisions to curb individuals’ habit of puncturing groundwater resources and adoption of recharging groundwater aquifers. Rainfall received in the nation is also not discouraging. It is the management part that has failed. Water management cannot be attained by the Union Government only. All the stakeholders must participate whole-heartedly in the process. Water is not generated, it is a natural resource, which is known to everyone. The nature’s gift comes every year, everywhere on the earth. We have to receive the same with a positive spirit, optimize usage and manage by adopting best practices laid by statutory bodies as well as scientific and mythological literartures. As such the Prime Minister has sent a huge message about the Government of India’s seriousness, through his open letters to the Sarpanches appealing for water conservation during monsoon. Instead of demanding for an imaginary emergency situation, why should not we start working unitedly to harness maximum of the rainwater and use it whenever possible, recharge it wherever feasible. We can certainly convert our nation from the problematic water shortage situation to a water abundance country.   

Imperceptible issues in Hazardous & Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules

19th June 2019

Transportation of hazardous for disposal to a facility existing in a State other than the State where the waste is generated prevail in bordering state areas

Hazardous waste means any waste, which by reason of characteristics causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment. In India, regulations to handle and manage hazardous wastes prevail since 1989. Implementation of the regulation has gained substantial success. Nevertheless, there are certain areas, where the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) and domain professionals need to strive.  

A common issue is in case of transportation of hazardous and other waste for final disposal to a facility existing in a State other than the State where the waste is generated. It is often found that the occupiers send without obtain ‘No Objection Certificate’ from both the States. This is a violation of section 18(3) of the rule. And mostly, without knowledge of both the SPCBs. This is rampant in bordering areas of two states, especially in the case of recyclable materials. Many times the occupiers are found to be ignorant of the legal implications. 

The manifest, which is the transporting document prepared and signed by the sender, is often prepared by the transporter; before quantification and characterization of hazardous waste. The transporter, which is very often the operator, does not provide any weighing facility in the transporting vehicles. In some states, there are very few operators and therefore, the occupiers have no options left but to accept their conditions. Furthermore, the manifests also do not mention the hazardous waste category with reference to the Schedule I of the rule.

Several occupiers are ignorant about the provisions under section 8(1) regarding storage of hazardous and other wastes that limits storage of the hazardous and other wastes for a period not exceeding 90 days. Further, small generators, up to 10 tonnes per annum, as defined under the rules, are rare in numbers those who have obtained permissions from SPCBs or PCCs to store their hazardous and other wastes up to 180 days of their annual capacity.

As section 4(2) of the rule mandates the occupier responsible for safe and environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes, the operator of Treatment

Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) should communicate with the occupiers about status of their legal validation, future plans to meet with statutory norms and convince them by exhibiting the treatment facility. The occupiers maintain trust only on the basis of authorization granted by the SPCBs and PCCs. 

In the event of an accident occurs at the facility of the occupier handling hazardous or other wastes and operator of the disposal facility or during transportation, the occupier or the operator or the transporter shall immediately intimate the State Pollution Control Board through telephone, e-mail about the accident. However, it is a rare view to find telephone number or any email address of the SPCB or PCC concerned, inside the industrial units or on the manifest. 

Hazardous wastes in the form of used or spent oil generated from diesel generator sets and vehicular maintenance are widely still not brought under the ambit of this rule. Temporary diesel generators are installed for years, sometimes up to 7 to 10 years at construction sites, banks, offices, small health care facilities and many other places; which do not fall under the purview of consent management. Similar is the case of motor garages. Regulating hazardous wastes movement from these places is required to ensure fulfilment of hazardous and other waste management. This could be attained by clustering and creating associations, which could be made responsible to effective compliance. 


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