The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped a Rs 5-crore fine on the West Bengal government for “failing to comply” with its two-year-old directive to improve air quality in Kolkata and Howrah. The NGT Eastern Zone principal bench comprising Judges S P Wangdi and non-judicial member Nagin Nanda on Tuesday said the fine should be paid within two weeks of the order to the Central Pollution Control Board, failing which, the government will have to pay an additional Rs 1-crore as fine for every month’s delay to the CPCB.
The order was given in the wake of West Bengal government not enforcing several measures recommended by the NGT in an earlier order in 2016 to check air pollution, the bench observed. In the order, the NGT had recommended measures like introducing alternative mechanism to put a lid on high number of polluting diesel vehicles in the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah, introducing remote sensing device (RSD) to monitor smoke emission, increasing number of computerised air monitoring stations from the existing ones.
The other measures include introducing the system of allowing private vehicles with odd and even registration numbers on specific days in the week, monitoring entry of non-BS 4 commercial vehicles to twin cities, stop burning of waste in dumping sites in different parts of state. The green body in subsequent sittings in the intervening period of two years had sought to know if the West Bengal government’s Environment department and the West Bengal Pollution Control Board had taken any steps towards the direction. The NGT had passed the 2016 order on the basis of a report submitted by an expert committee but environmentalist Subhas Datta had moved a contempt petition recently which led to imposition of the fine by the tribunal.
The NGT on Tuesday also directed the West Bengal chief secretary to file an affidavit by January 8, 2019 regarding the follow-up action plan and payment of fine. Environmentalist S M Ghosh said this was the culmination of a 20-year-old battle by environmentalists with a writ petition on health hazard caused by pollution first filed in 1999 at the Calcutta high court by him, another petition on the same issue filed by environmentalist Subhas Dutta in HC in 2006 and the case being transferred to NGT East bench in 2014.