Industries to be shut for want of effluent treatment plants: SC

Industries to be shut for want of effluent treatment plants: SC

Polluting industrial units across the country would be shut down if they do not have functional primary effluent treatment plants (PETPs) to stop the release of untreated waste in water bodies within three months after notice, the Supreme Court ruled today.

Issuing a slew of directions, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar directed state pollution control boards (PCBs) to issue a common notice by way of public advertisement to all industrial units to ensure that they have set up PETPs as mandated under the law to carry out industrial activities.

"We direct concerned state pollution control boards to issue notice to all industrial units by way of a common advertisement requiring them to ensure that they have functional primary effluent treatment plants.

"On the expiry of three months notice period, the concerned state pollution control boards are mandated to carry out inspections at industrial units as to whether they have functional PETPs," the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said.

If industrial units do not have functional PETPs, then they will not be allowed to function any more, the court said. The bench further directed that the state PCBs will ask the concerned electricity supply boards to disconnect the power supply to the defaulting industrial units, which could resume their functions only after they made their PETPs functional.

While disposing of a PIL on the issue, the top court said though the setting up of PETPs was required to be done by individual industrial units, the government bodies will have to establish Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) across the country within three years after acquiring land and completing other formalities.

The states will have to submit reports with regard to setting up of CETPs to the concerned bench of the National Green Tribunal. The local civic authorities could formulate norms to levy cess from users if they face financial crunch in the setting up of and running the CETPs. The bench, however, left the issue of setting up of zero liquid discharge (ZLD) plants to the authorities concerned after they complete the first round with regard to CETPs.

The apex court had earlier issued notice to the Centre, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Chief Secretaries of 19 states, including Gujarat, on the plea filed by NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti on the issue of pollution in water bodies, including ground water.

The bench referred to the constitutional provisions dealing with public health, sanitation and solid waste management and said that civic authorities were empowered to lay down norms to levy cess on users if they do not have sufficient resources to set up or run the CETPs.

The norms have to be finalised by March 31 of this year so that it can be made applicable in the next financial year, it said, adding that in case it is not done, then the respective state governments will have to bear the cost of running CETPs.

It, however, clarified that if municipal or other local bodies have sufficient funds, then they will not levy any charges. The bench, in its order, said the secretaries of Urban Development Ministry or local bodies, as the case may be, would be accountable for ensuring compliance of its order.

The court also passed similar directions with regard to setting up of sewerage treatment plant (STP) to deal with waste, other than industrial. "Simulataneously, we are of the view that malady of sewer should also be dealt accordingly. We, therefore, direct authorities to set up STPs within the same time-frame as expressed earlier," the bench said.

It further said "the information shall be furnished to the Central Ground Water Authority which shall evaluate the data and furnish it to the NGT bench concerned."

The bench directed the state pollution control boards to make provision for "online real-time continuous monitoring system" to display emission level in the public domain on their portals.

Initially, the PIL was restricted to Gujarat but later its scope was widened by the apex court, which had granted the last opportunity to the states on January 16 to file their responses.

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