Telangana: Awards, NGT penalty expose big contradiction

Telangana: Awards, NGT penalty expose big contradiction

The state which recently won the second largest number of awards from the Centre for sanitation has now been slapped with the highest-ever penalty by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for failure in management of solid waste and sewage.

Hyderabad: Telangana presents a picture in contradiction. The state which recently won the second largest number of awards from the Centre for sanitation has now been slapped with the highest-ever penalty by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for failure in management of solid waste and sewage.

The NGT's order imposing a record environmental compensation on the Telangana government has brought into focus the issue of solid waste and sewage in the state.

The Tribunal has imposed a fine of Rs 3,825 crore, the highest penalty imposed on any state so far.

The earlier highest penalty was Rs 3,000 crore imposed on the West Bengal government for non-compliance with orders relating to the disposal of sewage and solid waste.

The state government was directed to deposit the fine amount in two different accounts within the next two months. Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar has been asked to use the penalty amount to restore the damage to the environment.

According to the order, the Tribunal followed the 'polluter pays' principle under Section 20 of the NGT Act.

The compensation for untreated liquid waste was determined to be Rs 2 crore per million litres per day (MLD). The bench imposed Rs 3,648 crore for untreated 1,824 MLD sewage.

Similarly, it imposed a fine of Rs 300 per tonne for unprocessed legacy waste. The state government has been asked to pay Rs 177 crore for non-treatment of 5.9 million tonnes of legacy waste by 141 urban local bodies.

The legacy waste was calculated on the basis of disposal of 2,446 tonnes per day waste of 114 municipal bodies.

"Apart from compliance in future, the liability of the state has to be fixed for the past violations� Compensation has to be equal to the loss to the environment and also taking into account cost of remediation," the bench remarked.

The NGT, in its order, also noted that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) had dumped 1.2 million tonnes of legacy waste at the Jawaharnagar dump site, which is against the norms of the Central Pollution Control Board

"These dump sites in operation as well as the legacy waste dump sites remain sources of air, water and land pollution resulting in damage to environment and public health," it observed.

The bench also noted that the state government did not take NGT directions seriously and there was no 'adequate compliance' even after three years. It noted that the government has not fixed any accountability, collected any fines or carried out any performance audits.

"The total compensation may be deposited by the state of Telangana in a separate ring-fenced account within two months, to be operated as per directions of the chief secretary and utilised for restoration measures. It will be open to the state to plan raising funds from generators/contributors to waste," the NGT said.

The tribunal fixed the responsibility of compliance with the chief secretary for which a special senior level nodal secretary with a team of technical experts may be deputed immediately. It also called for six-monthly progress reports from the chief secretary

The Chief Secretary submitted a progress report on sewage and solid waste management to the NGT on September 28, but the Tribunal observed that there wasn't much progress in the disposal of sewage and solid waste.

The bench suggested that the state raise funds by imposing user charges on households and business establishments for discharging waste.

It observed that there has been no substantial progress since February 2020, when the Chief secretary last appeared before the NGT, as there still exist huge gaps in the management of solid and liquid waste.

From the data submitted by the state, the bench pointed out a gap of 1,824.42 million litres per day (MLD) in generation and treatment of liquid waste and sewage, and 2,446 tonnes per day (TPD) in solid waste management.

It noted that the statutory timelines for remediation of legacy waste expired on April 7 last year. It said the liability of the state for past violations has to be quantified on the principle of 'polluter pays' and has to be utilized for restoration of the environment.

The NGT also noted that the failure of the state has resulted in rivers like Musi in Hyderabad becoming a channel to carry sewage.

The sewage should be separately managed without mixing it in stormwater drains, rivers or water bodies. Regarding bridging the gap in addressing municipal solid waste, the bench suggested expeditious operationalisation of a cluster approach proposed for 129 ULBs to process 2,974 TPD of waste while keeping environmental safety in mind.

It also called for efforts for the utilisation of treated sewage such as by establishments like malls, industrial estates, automobile establishments, power plants, playgrounds, railways, bus stands, local bodies, universities, to save potable water for drinking.

Following the NGT order, environmental activists and opposition parties have slammed the state government over the failure in treating solid waste and sewage.

"The money of taxpayers is going waste due to the inefficiency of the KCR government," said BJP leader Anishetty.

Reacting to NGT order, state minister for municipal administration and urban development K.T. Rama Rao stated that the tribunal failed to consider several parameters. He believes that there was a communication gap and is confident that the state government would resolve the issue and provide a detailed explanation to the tribunal.

The NGT order came close on the heels of the state bagging a large number of Swachh Survekshan-2022 and Indian Swachhata League (ISL) awards.

As many as 16 Urban Local Bodies (ULB), in the state have bagged Swachh Survekshan awards 2022.

Selection for the awards was conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs which gave star ratings for the resolution of issues related to sanitation, and garbage free city, for the period of July 2021 to January 2022.

According to officials, a total of 90 topics were considered in selection of the awards. The awards were announced in the categories of solid Waste Management, community level composting, public toilets, liquid waste management, awareness levels among people, management of community toilets, citizen engagement, innovation, and others.

Three ULBs also won ISL awards. The state government has sanctioned Rs 2 crore each to these 19 ULBs as a mark of encouragement.

Municipal administration minister also announced that the chairpersons and commissioners of these ULBs will be sent to a tour outside Telangana to study the best practices.

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