The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change for filing a “vague and irrelevant reply” on a matter regarding the psychological aspect of air pollution.
The green panel also slammed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for diverting the environmental compensation deposited with it for “unauthorised purposes”, saying it was “a gross misuse and serious financial irregularity”.
Earlier, the tribunal had issued a notice to the ministry, CPCB and three others, saying, “Adequate measures are required for control of such air polluting components and their adverse effect on various organs of the human body, especially those which are affecting the brain and emotional, psychological aspect.” Noting that replies were filed only by the CPCB and the ministry, a bench of National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Expert Member A Senthil Vel said the ministry’s counsel had admitted that its reply was “not clear” regarding the effective steps taken by it.
The bench said despite repeated queries, the advocate for the ministry could not mention even a single step taken for effective control of air pollution.
“For filing such a vague and irrelevant reply, we impose a cost of Rs 25,000 upon Respondent No 1 (ministry) and direct it to file a supplementary reply giving details of all steps taken for effective monitoring and control of air pollution within one month,” the bench said.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the CPCB’s reply, the tribunal said despite admitting the presence of “several metals” in the air causing pollution and notifying the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the board did not take “any effective steps” for preventing and controlling air pollution.
“From the reply, we also find that the amount of environmental compensation deposited with CPCB is being diverted for unauthorised purposes,” it said.
The tribunal noted the reply, which stated that the CPCB was funding the urban local bodies of the National Capital Region (NCR) for the construction or repair of roads and for mechanical road sweepers under Environment Protection Charge funds.
Similar funds were made available to the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation and other local bodies without assigning specific reasons for it, it said.
“We find it appropriate to require the CPCB to give complete details of the entire amount of environmental compensation lying deposited with it and shall also give manner in which any amount out of above fund has been spent or utilised till November 30, 2023,” the tribunal said.
Underscoring that road construction or repair was the statutory responsibility of local bodies, the green body slammed the board, saying diverting funds for unauthorised activities is “a gross misuse and serious financial irregularity.” “We intend to issue direction for recovery of the same from the officer(s) concerned of the CPCB who has/have sanctioned or diverted said funds for unauthorised purposes,” the tribunal said.
Allowing a month’s time for the CPCB to file a reply, the panel asked the board to “ensure that the amount deposited under environmental compensation is neither diverted nor there is any financial irregularity as it amounts to misappropriation of funds”.
“In the garb of protection of environment, remediation and rejuvenation, the activities which are not directly or indirectly connected with the same but statutory duties of some other statutory bodies should not be undertaken by CPCB,” the tribunal said.
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