Environmental activists split hairs on Sunday discussing how the National Green Tribunal Bill (NGT) can be used in the seven major issues that reportedly affect the environment of Kerala. A one day workshop on this topic was jointly organised by the Environment Impact Assessment Resource and Response Center (ERC), the River Research Center and One Earth One Life.

The NGT Act provides for a specialised environmental court at the national and regional level and has broad jurisdiction over various environmental laws. Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who has fought a series of complex environmental cases against the giants of the industrial world, was the chief guest for the event.

Ritwik Dutta elaborated the finer details of NGT Act and a discussion chaired by environmentalist M K Prasad followed. The issues discussed were related to Aranmula airport, express corridors, pollution in Eloor, quarrying in Karasseri and Kodiyathur panchayats in Kozhikode, fish deaths in Kathikudam and the Plachimada water crisis.

Aranmula Airport

Activist Sreerenganathan K P spoke about the state government’s nod for the proposed airport. He alleged that the government’s nod is against its own parliamentary standing committee report. The project had gained clearance from the Pollution Control Board and EnviroCare (a private firm) which resulted in a huge controversy and popular protests.

Sreerenganathan alleged that these studies were a farce. In reply, Ritwik pointed out that projects implemented without cumulative impact study can be petitioned in the NGT.

He said that all documents will be scrutinised in detail if such a petition is filed, and a public hearing conducted.

Express Corridor

“The proposed High Speed Express Train Corridor project involves forest land as well as other land. No environmental clearance has been obtained for this project”, said M T Thomas. Ritwik responded that rail and metro works won’t usually come under the provisions of NGT. But if forest land is involved, the issue can be taken up by the NGC.

Eloor

On the issues faced by Eloor Municipality, Purushan Eloor claimed that hundreds of studies have been conducted to confirm the pollution of Periyar and its impact on the people.

“A study conducted by the Kerala government itself reported that residents of Eloor have at least 10 to 15 times more diseases than an average Keralite”, he said.

Ritwik pointed out that two similar cases were brought to the notice of the tribunal recently. “Prima facie, almost every schedule of NGT is applicable in Eloor, especially clauses related to Water Act and Air Act”, said Ritwik.

Kodiyathoor and Karassery

Ajit Kumar, who spoke on the issue of alleged illegal quarrying in Kodiyathoor and Karasseri panchayats in Kozhikode, said that 62 quarries are working in the two panchayats without proper environmental clearance. Not only agricultural land but also government waste land is used for quarrying, he said.  “Previously, quarries below five hectares were exempted from environmental clearance, but now all quarries have to get sanction. If its not obtained it can be petitioned with NGT” said Ritwik in reply.

Kathikudam

During the last days of May, several fish were found dead in a span of 20 kms in Kathikudam. “This issue is twice-troubling for fishermen” said S P Ravi who raised the issue, saying “as this was the breeding season, the killed fish will have a impact on the fishermen’s livelihood next year also”.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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