Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (February 13, 2024)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

Kerala HC urges Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka to cooperate in resolving human-animal conflict

The Kerala High Court said the residents of those districts in Kerala that border forest areas “cannot be made to live in perpetual fear of animal attack on their person or property” and directed the Additional Chief Secretary, General Administration Department, Kerala to submit a plan within 10 days (on or before February 23, 2024). The plan should consist of immediate short-term steps that will be taken to prevent the straying of wild animals into human settlements in the Wayanad district.

“The short-term plan should be one that will be implemented within a month thereafter, and will be in addition to the long term measures suggested by the Committee of Experts that will be implemented simultaneously in a phased manner,” said the February 12, 2024 order.

The Kerala HC recommended that it would be in the best interests of all the three state governments to engage in dialogues and arrive at an agreement for mutual cooperation in the matter of resolving human-animal conflict situations. State borders exist only for the human population and not for the animals who roam freely through the forests adjacent to human settlements in all the three states, the HC said.

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The HC expressed grave concern with the pace at which the Kerala government has chosen to act in the matter of setting up infrastructural facilities for preventing such conflict situations in the area and in fact as early as on March 29, 2023 while dealing with a conflict situation involving another elephant, the HC had constituted a Committee of Experts (CoE) to advise the court in matters of human-elephant conflict situations in the state. The HC was informed that although the CoE has been convening and holding meetings, they have not been receiving the required assistance from the state.

Ensure that industrial effluent is not discharged into stormwater drains in Muzaffarnagar: NGT

NGT directed the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) to verify the factual position regardingutilisation of treated industrial and domestic effluent for irrigation by Indian Potash Ltd and to ensure that 100 per cent treated effluent, whether industrial or domestic, is utilised by the industry for irrigation and not discharged into stormwater drains.

UPPCB was also directed to ensure that no industrial effluent is discharged by any of the industries operating in Muzaffarnagar in stormwater drains, quality of water reaching the river would be monitored and appropriate action would be taken against the defaulting industries.

The tribunal noted that fly ash generated by coal contains harmful heavy metals and thus should not be utilised for filling of any agricultural area and would be utilised by cement- or brick-making industries.

UPPCB was also directed to finalise mechanisms for proper disposal of fly ash by all air polluting industries within six months and submit a report.

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Encroachment of forest land

The issue of large-scaleencroachment of forest land in India was taken up by the NGT February 9.An application was filed before the NGT on the basis of a news report published in Deccan Herald January 5, 2024 under the title Forest land five times Delhi’s geographical area Under encroachment govt data shows.

The news report said that across the country there is large encroachment on forest land and broadly more than 7,500 square kilometres of the recorded forest area of a total 7,75,288 square kilometers across the country has been encroached upon but no action has been taken by the concerned authorities in this matter. 56 percent of the forest area under encroachment falls under states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur.

Counsel on behalf of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) informed the court that since the matter related to various state governments, the ministry has asked the concerned governments to take appropriate action and requested for time to file response to place on record the action taken by the MoEF&CC.

As the issue involved all the states and Union Territories across the country, Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary of Environment & Forests of all the states and Union Territories be impleaded as respondents, the court directed.

The next hearing of the case will be held on April 19, 2024.


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