NGT orders shut down of Coal Gasifiers in Morbi and Wankaner in Gujarat
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered that all industrial units that run on Coal Gasifiers in Morbi and Wankaner in Gujarat be shut down, in view of the alarming levels of pollution caused by them. Ceramic, Silicate and Frit industries in the area likely to be affected by the order have been given the option to switch to Pipe Natural Gase (PNG) or other non-coal based alternative technology.
A Bench comprising of Chairperson AK Goel, Judicial Members SP Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan and Expert Member Dr. Nagin Nanda passed the order on Wednesday. The order was passed in view of Expert reports indicating that the continued use of coal gasifiers was not sustainable. The order states,
“… it is clear that coal gasifiers are no longer viable. Inspection by GPCB shows high level of air pollution which is dangerous for health and environment. ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Precautionaly’ principles are to be upheld…
Accordingly, we allow the applications and direct the GPCB to close all coal gasifiers industries and units operating with the held of coal gasifiers without prejudice to such units switching over to non-coal gasifiers or PNG or technology consistent with the above report [February 2018 report of an Expert Commitee].”
The order was passed in an application to close Coal-based gasifiers used by industrial units in and around Morbi and Wankaner. Further, the application called for ensuring that these industries follow terms of ‘Consent of Consolidated Authorisation’ (CCA) by the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board (GPCB).
Writ petitions on the issue had already cropped up before the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court between 2014 and 2015 before the matter came before the NGT. In 2017, the NGT had initially directed that Coal gasifier units not conforming to the standards laid down by GPCB be shut down in two months.
However, the scope of this ban came to be extended after the Court was apprised of Expert Committee reports on the pollution caused by Coal gasifiers in 2018. One 2018 report had concluded that the continued use of Coal gasifiers was not viable. Other data compiled by the CPCB indicated that the Morbi-Wankaner area is one of the more polluted industrial clusters.
Additionally, the NGT also opined that GPCB could not have even give CCA for the industries using Coal gasifiers, given that no such method of granting permit is envisioned under the Water and Air Pollution Acts.
“We have not been able to find any warrant for Consolidated Consent Authorisation in view of the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Consent to Operate and Consent to Establish have to be given to every individual unit based on the study of its operations and impact on water and air. Thus, it appears that the Consolidated Consent Authorization is per se beyond what is permitted under the law. The said industries are, thus, operating in violation of the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981).“
In view of these observations, the NGT proceeded to direct the closure of Coal gasifiers-based industries in Morbi and Wankaner. Further, directions were also given to prosecute violators and recover compensation and damages for the pollution caused by the coal-run industries.
‘The GPCB must initiate immediate steps for prosecution of the industries which have operated in violation of law and recover compensation for causing damage to the environment and public health.“
A committee has been constituted to assess the amount of compensation. A report on this aspect is to be submitted within a month to the NGT. An oversight committee headed by Former Delhi High Court Chief Justice, BC Patel has also been constituted to oversee the execution of the order.
From Law Gup shup