The Bombay High Court on Monday expressed that the concern raised in the public interest litigation (PIL) seeking shifting of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) biomedical waste treatment plant at Govandi citing the threat posed by toxic emissions it releases.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice ABhay Ahuja has directed the Maharashtra government, the Maharashtra state pollution control board (MPCB) and the BMC to file their replies before the next hearing.
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by the Govandi New Sangam Welfare Society pointing out the closure notice issued by the MPCB to the plant run by SMS Envoclean Private Limited citing its failure to comply with rules.
The plea urges that at least half of the waste, being sent to Govandi plant, be shifted to some other plant in Navi Mumbai, Thane or Kalyan-Dombivli, and the Govandi plant shifted permanently in a time-bound manner. Besides, it has also sought environmental compensation.
Highlighting the health issues faced by the residents due to the emissions from the plant, the PIL adds that almost the entire M (East) ward of the BMC was affected by the toxic emissions.
According to the petition, the plant started functioning in 2009 without any environment clearance and without following due process under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 and no public consultation was held.
An RTI reply on the medical records of people infected with TB, respiratory diseases and lung cancer in the M (East) ward had revealed a concerning trend that showed at least 4,500-5,000 people were diagnosed with TB every year and the number of deaths due to the disease from 2013 till May 2022 were 1,877.
Plea states that the incinerators do not have “dioxin-and furan-controlling devices” and therefore it is clear that harmful emissions are being released daily, affecting the residents’ health as there is no buffer zone of 500 m to minimise the health impact.
“This strongly makes the entire residential area in Govandi situated next to the biomedical waste treatment plant resemble an open gas chamber,” read the PIL.
In 2019, the CPCB had issued Guidelines for Imposition of Environmental Compensation Charges against Healthcare Facilities and Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities.
Later on July 6, 2019 closure directions were issued by MPCB to the contractor of the Bio Medical Waste Treatment Plant at Govandi/Deonar. Under the Air Act, 1981.
However, the high court stayed this direction based on a petition by the contractor. The plea contends that, at the time, the HC was not made aware of the large-scale health impact of the toxic emissions arising out of the incinerator of the Bio- Medical Waste Treatment Plant.
Hence, the PIL was filed “placing necessary scientific documents on record so as to substantiate the fact that this plant deserves to be closed as expeditiously as possible”, it adds.
Once again, on March 24 this year, the MPCB issued another Show Cause notice to the contractor for violation of conditions and Bio medical Waste Rules, 2016.
The HC has kept the PIL and the contractor’s petition for hearing on January 16.
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