Bombay High Court Asks MPCB To Undertake Immediate Audit Of Industries Falling In Red Category

Bombay High Court Asks MPCB To Undertake Immediate Audit Of Industries Falling In Red Category

The court also noted that the state and the pollution board will have to change its approach from remedial to preventive.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Monday, March 18, 2024, 11:06 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File pic

Monitoring of air pollution has to be a continuous effort and the state can’t have an attitude: "Now I am thirsty, I will dig a well," observed the Bombay High Court on Monday, adding that the situation in Mumbai was "emergent". The court also noted that the state and the pollution board will have to change its approach from remedial to preventive. 

The court noted that everything was “in place on paper” as back as March 2023 for tackling the air pollution, however, but the same was not implemented. 

The high court has directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB)  to undertake an immediate audit of industries which are placed in the red category causing maximum pollution. 

State said the MPCB needs 1,310 additional staff to conduct industrial audit spanning over 15 months. However, the HC asked it to immediately start the audit of red zone industries. The industries are placed  in four categories based on level of pollution emission — red, orange, green and white. 

“We have passed  this direction  considering the scarcity of staff being faced by MPCB. However, broader public  interest and human causes such as checking air pollution levels in the city which has a population  of about (2.16 crore ) cannot be permitted and (needs to be) remedied immediately.” 

According to the state , there are 25,000 industries in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Of these 7,268 are highly polluting and are placed in red category. 7841 are in orange category and 10640 green category. Given a target of completing thr audit in 15 months MPCB  needs additional 1310 staff, advocate general Birendra Saraf and state advocate Jyoti Chavan said. 

In addition, there are 566  ready mix plants, 66 hot mix plants and 410 stone crushers which also cause high air pollution. 

The court remarked that the Air Quality Index (AQI), which may be in “satisfactory” category, may soon go to “poor” category around November when the winter sets in. 

“Now we have to change the approach. It cannot be remedial, it has to be preventive. The approach now cannot be that you are thirsty so you go dig a well. Now these are emergent situations,” a bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Girish Kulkarni said on Monday. 

The court had taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance of the rising air pollution in the city last December. Also a batch of petitions were filed highlighting the issue. 

The bench emphasised that there has to be frequent monitoring and inspections of industries and public projects to ensure that there is compliance of air pollution norms and rules. “We have laws and rules. What is required is implementation. There has to be a permanent and robust mechanism to ensure implementation,” the court said. 

It questioned why the situation was not improving despite there being rules and guidelines in place. It added that the court cannot keep passing orders and a statutory body needs to be set up which can address these issues. 

The bench noted that earlier industries were set up outside the city limits. However, with development, residential premises have come up around these industries. The court suggested that the state consider framing a policy by which industries can be shifted to other zones.     

Advocate General Birendra Safar informed the bench that inspections of all the seven public projects sites were undertaken and they had a meeting with the project proponents. Certain shortcomings were found and they were asked to remedy the same immediately. The projects are - two road concretization at suburban Bandra and Khar, the bullet train site at BKC, Versova-Bandra sea link project site, Mumbai Metro- III site, Mumbai Coastal Road site and the Mumbai Teans Harbour Link site.

The HC has asked MPCB to immediately start the audit process of industries which fall in the red category. "At Least for Mumbai, MMR to have statutory body where hearings can take place. So courts don’t need to monitor this," the bench said. 

The HC has kept the matter for hearing on June 20.

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