The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on Kochi Corporation for ‘rampantly violating’ the statutory solid waste management rules and the orders of the Supreme Court, after a fire broke out at the Brahmapuram waste dump on the outskirts of Kochi.
Taking cognisance of media reports, the Tribunal had registered a suo motu case related to a major fire that broke out at the Brahmapuram waste dump on March 2, causing discomfort to Kochi residents, who complained of burning sensation in the eyes, breathlessness, irritation in throat and skin issues.
The flames, which further led to worsening of air quality of the city, were finally put out on March 13.
The Bench of Justice A.K. Goel, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member Dr. A Senthil Vel ruled that the State of Kerala and its authorities had rampantly violated the statutory solid waste management rules and orders of the Supreme Court.
It further said that the state government and its authorities had completely neglected their duties with regard to solid waste management, which led to the fire.
The Bench further noted that no accountability had been fixed for this failure so far.
The Tribunal noted that except for giving future plans, no fixing of accountability had been proposed even now, which was a matter of regret. No prosecution had been launched against the guilty for criminal offences under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and also under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
It said no action was taken for violation of orders of the Supreme Court and repeated orders of this Tribunal in proceedings transferred to the Tribunal by the Apex Court.
Terming the attitude of the state authorities as a ‘threat’ to the rule of law, the Tribunal said it hoped the situation would be remedied at the higher level in the state such as the DGP and the Chief Secretary to uphold the Constitution and the mandate of environmental law.
NGT directed the Kochi Corporation to deposit Rs 100 crore with the Chief Secretary of Kerala within one month, so that it could be used for necessary remediation measures, such as dealing with public health issues of the victims.
The Chief Secretary of Kerala was further directed to expeditiously fix the accountability for the neglect on part of the concerned officers for such gross failures.
The Tribunal directed the Corporation to initiate action against the guilty officers under criminal law and by way of departmental proceedings, following due process and place the same in public domain within two months.