TN: NGT Fines Repeat Offender TANGEDCO; Activists Unsure of Outcome
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: NDTV
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed an interim penalty of Rs 5 crores on Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) for violating environmental regulations and encroaching. The TANGEDCO has been found guilty of dumping construction debris to construct a road for the Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS) in Ennore creek and Buckingham canal leading to the penalty by the southern bench.
The judgement was pronounced based on the reports of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on July 20. An approach road was laid, violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) which blocked the natural flow of the Kosasthalaiyar river.
The tribunal has invoked the ‘polluter pays principle’ and advised to formulate a committee to estimate the compensation with the district magistrate of Tiruvallur together with the central and state pollution control board.
Despite repeated penalties on state-run and private entities, for environmental pollution, the violations continue in different forms, sending the rules and regulations for a toss. The livelihood of the fishing community has been affected badly due to the continuous flouting of norms in the water bodies.
PENALISED FOR MULTIPLE VIOLATIONS
The TANGEDCO- a state-run corporation, is a repeat offender of environmental regulations in Tamil Nadu. The NGT was approached in 2017 after the company laid the approach road no.2, by dumping construction debris in the Ennore creek and Buckingham canal, blocking the natural flow of the Kosasthalaiyar river.
The TANGEDCO obtained the environmental and CRZ clearance on February 11, 2019. However, it constructed and then removed the roads in 2016 and 2017. “It reckons to be a violation to carry out any work prior to the date of clearance received”, the judgement read.
The TANGEDCO had removed approach road no.1 after the intervention of the district magistrate which was laid without obtaining any permission in October 2016.
Approach road no.2 was also laid years ahead from when required permissions were obtained, thereby obstructing the flow of the river. The fishing community in the locality depend solely on the fish reserves in the river, which already is contaminated by the fly ash dumped by the thermal power stations.
Though the TANGEDCO removed the roads, the NGT had levied the penalty considering the adverse impact on the creeks and the backwaters.
‘GOVT AND TANGEDCO DEFENDED ACTIONS’
The TANGEDCO and the government of Tamil Nadu claimed the construction of the road as legal when the movement to save Ennore alleged violations. The Poovulagin Nanbargal proved the violations with the help of maps when the legal battle was waged.
“The TANGEDCO initially refused to accept any violations. Only after people resorted to sustained struggles and legal battles, the organisation has been found guilty of encroachments”, V Prabhakaran of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an environmental organisation told NewsClick.
The 4-member bench reviewing the case also observed the damages caused to the creeks and the backwaters due to the dumping of construction debris.
“Since creeks are an essential component in facilitating biological, physicochemical and ecological processes, it is further recommended to study the impacts on the creek bed ecosystem due to the said activities (construction and removal of temporary roads and its associated activities) with importance to Plankton's community”, the judgement reads.
The observations submitted by the MoEF&CC, TNCZMA, State PCB, NEERI and IIT, Chennai were considered by the NGT while pronouncing the judgement.
‘NO LESSONS LEARNT’
The submission of TANGEDCO on removing the encroachment and seeking relief was not considered by the NGT. The NGT held the company accountable for the damages and directed it to deposit Rs 5 crores within 2 months with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) as interim compensation.
But, Prabhakaran has accused the organisation of being a repeat offender. “The aim of levying a penalty is to stop the offence. TANGEDCO has been fined more than Rs 11 crores recently for violating emission norms from thermal power stations. Instead of stopping violations, they continue the process without any change”, he told NewsClick.
The Poovulagin Nanbargal has accused TANGEDCO of building bridges against the existing laws.
"The bridges should be constructed above the average water level of the river and all the pillars should be under the water level. But the pillars of the bridge are built above the water level", Prabhakaran told NewsClick.
Though the NGT has ordered to utilise the penalty for restoration of the environment in the area by preparing an integrated restoration plan for restoration of Buckingham Canal, Ennore Creek and Kosasthalaiyar river, including incidental issues like degraded coastline, backwater, restitution of mangroves, maintaining marine flora and fauna, and green aspects, the activists are pessimistic of the outcome.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.