The National Green Tribunal has slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Tamil Nadu Government for its failure to protect Buckingham Canal, Adyar and Cooum rivers in Chennai which have voirtually become sewage channels.
The tribunal said the amount should be used for protecting the environment and water bodies.
The principal bench comprising NGT chairman Justice A K Goel, Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Nagin Nanda, said Cooum and Buckingham Canal flowing though Chennai were two of the most polluted rivers in the world .
It said that Cooum after entering Chennai turns into a sewage channel thanks to discharge of waste by residential colonies and slums which have come up on encroached land, as well as several educational institutions which discharge their effluents and other solid waste into the river bed.
Educational institutions had been polluting the rivers for the past 26 years with impunity with the local administration failing to apply the“polluter pay” principle, it said.
These rivers were polluted over the years thanks to public apathy and inaction on the part of local authorities, particularly the Chennai corporation, to remove encroachments and failure to treat the discharged solid waste, the bench said.
“Failure to treat sewage is a criminal offence”, the bench said .
It also noted that the Rs 600 crore river restoration project a failure.
The Government in an affidavit said the Chennai River Restoration Trust had taken strenuous efforts to restore Cooum in the first phase and Adyar in the second phase in eight years, the major components in the first three years.
Unimpressed, the bench slapped the Rs 100 fine and directed the State Chief Secretary to appear before it on April 24.
It said that the State Government should deposit a suitable interim compensation for damage already caused to the environment and give performance guarantee to ensure that the action plan would be implemented within the timelines given by the State.
Disposing a batch of writ petition, the bench also said it would take a final view after hearing the views of an experts panel it proposed to set up.
It would comprise representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board, the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the Madras School of Economics, NEERI and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The committee would assess the causes and quantum of damage to the environment as well as further steps needed to be taken for restoration of environment which were not covered by the action plan of the State Government, it said.
The bench said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board would be the nodal agency to monitor the implementation of its order. It should file a report in three months