The National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty of Rs 3,500 crore on the West Bengal government for the huge gap in solid and liquid waste generation and treatment.

The green panel said the state government does not appear to be prioritising setting up of sewage and solid waste management facilities though according to the state's budget for 2022-2023, there is provision of Rs 12,818.99 crore on Urban Development and Municipal Affairs.

Observing that health issues cannot be deferred to the long future, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said it is the constitutional responsibility of the state and the local bodies to provide a pollution free environment.

The NGT noted that out of 2,758 million litres per day of sewage generation in urban areas and the treatment capacity of 1505.85 MLD (by setting up 44 STPs), only 1268 MLD is reported to be treated, leaving a huge gap of 1490 MLD.

It said being part of the right to life, which is also a basic human right and absolute liability of the state, lack of funds cannot be pleaded to deny such right.

While there may be no objection to any central funds being availed, the state cannot avoid its responsibility or delay its discharge on that pretext, it said.

Considering damage to the recipient environment, we hold that apart from ensuring compliance at the earliest, compensation has to be paid by the state for past violations, the Tribunal said.

"Final amount of compensation under the two heads (solid and liquid waste) is assessed at Rs. 3,500 crore which may be deposited by the state of West Bengal in a separate ring-fenced account within two months," the bench said.

If violations continue, liability to pay additional compensation may have to be considered, it added.

The tribunal said segregation of the solid waste at source and its earliest processing nearest to the point of generation with defined destination is imperative.

Compliance of environmental norms on the subject of waste management has to be high on priority. Tribunal has come across cases of serious neglect and continuing damage to the environment in absence of inadequate steps for treatment of solid and liquid waste, it said.

"We are of the view that issues have been identified and monitored by the tribunal for a long time. It is high time that the state realises its duty to law and to citizens and adopts further monitoring at its own level," the Bench said.

The directions came while monitoring compliance of Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and other environmental issues by states and Union territories.

With PTI inputs