The National Green Tribunal imposed a hefty fine of INR 12 Lakhs on Birla Carbon Ltd for discharging untreated polluted black water into an existing nallah connecting to the Renu River.

The Tribunal rejected Birla’s contention, violations identified on February 09 2021 were rectified within 4 days, due to lack of evidence.

The Tribunal observed that despite being aware of these violations, no prompt action was taken, and there was no notification to the authorities. The acknowledgement of remedial measures only came to light during a subsequent inspection on March 02, 2021.

The Bench headed By Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava and comprising Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi with Expert Member A. Senthil Vel.

Advocates Vanita Bhargava and Nikitha Shenoy appeared for Birla Carbon India Pvt. Ltd. (Birla) and Advocate Daleep Dhyani appeared for the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB).

An Application was filed under Sections 14 and 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT Act) was initiated based on a complaint against Birla. The complaint alleged that the industrial unit was discharging untreated polluted black water into an existing nallah connected to the "Renu River," causing pollution and violating environmental laws.

The local administration inspected the site, confirming the discharge of black effluent water into the nallah. Subsequent inspections by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and UPPCB verified the discharge of untreated carbon-containing black water, leading to the issuance of a show cause notice by the Chief Environment Officer, Circle – 2. Despite the show cause notice, Birla continued to discharge untreated black water into the nallah. The applicant supported the claims with photographs, highlighting issues with the proposed Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) system.

The Tribunal, considered the complaint, finding it appropriate to constitute a Joint Committee comprising CPCB, UPPCB, and the District Magistrate of Sonebhadra, to ascertain the factual position. The Tribunal directed UPPCB to take further action and finalize the matter within one month. The Joint Committee, in its report, confirmed the unit's valid consent, described its water consumption and treatment systems, and acknowledged past violations. It recommended revisiting the period for imposing environmental compensation.

The Tribunal considered the Joint Committee's report and questioned the inconsistency in the environmental compensation imposed by UPPCB. The Tribunal noted that violations were established, and the applicant argued for compensation for the entire period. Borla contended that violations were rectified within four days, and the UPPCB's decision to impose compensation for only four days had been accepted.

In the course of the preceding discussion, the Tribunal noted that two inspections were conducted at Birla's premises. The initial inspection occurred on January 22 2021 revealing the discharge of black material into the drain. The Birla did not contest or challenge these findings, either by submitting objections to the inspection report or by providing explanations to the concerned UPPCB officials immediately after the inspection.

The Tribunal observed that a subsequent inspection on February 9 2021 identified similar violations in more explicit terms. While Birla admitted the findings of the inspection, it failed to demonstrate that these violations commenced solely on that day and were not pre-existing. Birla did not present any evidence to indicate that it took prompt remedial measures within four days to rectify the violations.

The Tribunal observed that Birla was responsible for paying environmental compensation for the period when violations were initially detected on January 22 2021 and verified remediation on March 02 2021. Although Birla admitted partial violations and the agreed-upon rate of compensation, the Tribunal refrained from altering the compensation rate, maintaining it at Rs. 30,000 per day.

Accordingly, the Tribunal directed Birla to pay environmental compensation totalling Rs. 12 lakhs to UPPCB within two months.

Cause Title: Pankaj Srivastava v Birla Carbon India Pvt. Ltd. (Original Application No. 336 of 2023)

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