New Delhi: Taking a serious view of industries letting out effluents into rivers and water bodies resulting in pollution, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that all the industries to ensure that they put in place their effluent treatment plants (ETPs) and make them functional in three months. The court warned that power supply will be cut off to these industrial units if there is no compliance in this regard.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay K. Kaul passed this order on a PIL alleging that industries are not setting up ETPs and even the ETPs are not fully operational. It was pointed out that effluents were released even from ETPs as they are not adhering to the standards. The bench said those units which release effluents above the permissible norm would also meet with a similar fate. They would then have to prove to the respective state pollution boards that they had removed the problem before they are allowed to resume operations again.
The CJI observed “We must start somewhere, start moving,” when counsel for some states opposed any blanket order being passed on closure of industrial units causing pollution.
The bench also ordered that wherever required industrial areas have their common ETPs in place within three years or face similar action. This would allow states to acquire land for these plants, including space for zero-discharge plants. The state pollution control boards and environment secretaries will ensure this and the regional benches of the NGT monitor the progress. Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for PIL petitioner Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, argued that lack of funds was one critical factor why these CETPs fell into disrepair over the years.
The CJI wanted the Central government to come up with a scheme in this regard and allocate finance this year itself. He asked the local bodies in states to explore similar options which would involve plans of recovering the amounts from industrial and domestic users. The bench in its order directed all states to copy the Gujarat, MP, UP model of real-time monitoring of such discharge through sensors. The bench also asked all states to initiate civil and criminal action under the law against the defaulting units, wondering why not a single individual or company had so far been prosecuted for this.