World environment day is observed on 5th June every year, with the intention of raising awareness on issues pertaining to environment. It is celebrated with much publicity by imminent leaders and other public figures by indulging in activities like planting saplings, collecting garbage, lecturing on environment conservation and similar pursuits. However these gimmicks leaves a lot to be desired. Dedicating a day to heal the nature won’t suffice, as it serves no purpose. Care for the nature should be an everyday affair and all should take part in it.
Construction of rules and regulations bound by law is necessary to protect the nature for creating a sustainable habitat for ourselves and for our future generations to come. National Green Tribunal (NGT) was created with the purpose of disciplining the misuse of environment.NGT was established on 18th October 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 to dispose of civil cases relating to environment protection and conservation in a fast and effective manner. It is also responsible for providing relief and compensation for damages to persons and property caused by the violation of National Green Tribunal Act.
Implementation and Execution of National Green Tribunal Act 2010
The Tribunal consists of a mix of maximum 20 members of environment experts and judges and a minimum of 10 members. It is headed by the Chairperson who is appointed by the central government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Only retired Supreme Court judges or chief justice of high courts are eligible to be appointed as the Chairperson of National Green Tribunal. The judicial members of the bench should be qualified retired judges of Supreme Court or high court and expert members of the Tribunal are elected based on their educational qualifications and expertise in environmental science and administration by the central government. The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment, thereby facilitating independent judgements.
The principal bench of the tribunal is located at Delhi and the Regional Benches are spread out in different cities of Bhopal (Central Zone), Chennai (South Zone), Pune (Western Zone), and Calcutta (Eastern Zone). Each bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several states in the region. Example- cases arising from southern states falls under southern zone. While passing judgement, it will apply the principles of sustainable development, precautionary principle and polluter pays principle.
National green tribunal was contrived to:
- Provide relief and compensation to the victims of pollution and other environmental damage, restitution of the property or environment damaged.
- Penalise non-compliance of environment norms.
- Imprison and levy fines on offenders.
- Reduce burden of litigation in higher courts and design alternate dispute resolution mechanism in environment matters
- Open a less expensive, faster channel to resolve environment issues
Various acts which falls under the National Green Tribunal related to the environment are:
- The Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act 1974
- The Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Cess Act 1977
- The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
- The Air (Prevention and Control) Act 1981
- The Environment (Protection) Act 1986
- The Public Liability Insurance Act 1991
- The Biological Diversity Act 2002
Any violations pertaining to these laws or decisions taken by Government under the above laws can be challenged before The National Green Tribunal.
Important judgements on Environment Impact by NGT.
- Suspension of order to setup steel project by POSCO with the MoU of Government of Odisha in the year 2012, was a bold step towards conservation of local tribal communities and their environment.
- Prohibition on open burning of solid waste on land and landfills in 2012, persuaded governments to find better solutions to solid waste management and pollution.
- A Hydro Power Company was ordered to compensate residents of Srinagar (Pauri district in Uttarakhand) for damage caused by the accumulation of construction debris on their property during 2013 floods.
- In 2015 All diesel vehicles over 10 years old were prohibited from plying in New Delhi-NCR.
- A fine of Rs. 5 cr was imposed on the organisers of Art of living Festival held on the plains of Yamuna river in the year 2017. They were found to be violating environment norms
- An interim ban on plastic bags of less than 50 microns was imposed in Delhi. It was seen to be clogging sewage, causing animal deaths and harming the environment.
- NGT has taken suo motu cognizance and held LG Polymers liable for styrene gas Leak at Vishakhapatnam and has been directed to pay compensation to the victims. The tribunal has setup a committee to prepare a restoration plan.
- The expert committee constituted by the NGT found prima facie violation of environmental norms by Oil India Limited at Baghjan oil wells in Assam. NGT is currently considering the applications moved by NGO activists against OIL.
- In 2019 NGT had pronounced orders on various environmental issues like excess wastage of water by use of reverse osmosis process, pollution caused by livestock, compliance of municipal solid waste, Sand mining menace, rejuvenation of Ganga, rain water harvesting and utilization of treated water, illegal extraction of ground water, management of e- waste and other hazardous waste, Air pollution and noise pollution, plastic waste management, coastal water pollution. Apart from these many inconspicuous judgments were passed by the tribunal which have inadvertently helped in preserving our habitat.
National Green Tribunal plays a prominent role in ensuring procedures related to Environment clearances are strictly followed. The NGT act requires the tribunal to hear cases as expeditiously as possible and decide the case within 6 months. Despite this indicative timeline, cases gets prolonged due to issues like lack of evidence, investigation procedure and constrains in hearing all parties with in the stipulated timeline. There are many challenges faced by NGT on delivering its responsibility with full integrity. The first issue is lack of enough judges and expert members in the bench. Second is the rise in environment indictments leading to delay in judgement. For the effective functioning of the Tribunal, self-autonomy of the governing body is essential. Only then can our country deal with the rising concern of environment and climate change.