The Ludhiana Municipal Corporation has been directed by National Green Tribunal to deposit Rs 100 crore with the District Magistrate as interim compensation for the death of seven persons in a fire at a garbage dump site at Tajpur Road.
Majority of the deceased belonged to a rag-picker family, who were living near the site for the last 10 years, with a huge dump of 20 lakh tonnes.
Prima facie, there was failure of the state authorities in complying with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, noted the Tribunal.
NGT said the Monitoring Committee, the Municipal Corporation and other State Authorities failed to provide clean environment to people, besides failing to comply with the SWM Rules, not only at Ludhiana, but even at other places.
As per the Committee, 25-30 lakh tonne legacy waste was stored at 52 acres of land in Ludhiana. It said no steps were being taken to remediate the same.
The Tribunal said it cannot rule out the possibility of fire being caused to the jhuggi of the deceased family, due to the large dump site of solid waste spread in an area of 52 acres.
The Tribunal said the rag-pickers lived around this dumpsite in a ‘pathetic’ condition. It identified the following issues for consideration:
i) Liability of the Corporation and the State for failure to comply with the SWM Rules resulting in damage to environment and public health.
ii) Liability of the Corporation and the State for restoration measures on ‘polluter pays’ principle and under public trust doctrine
iii) Compensation to the heirs of the persons who had died.
iv) Further remedial action by the Corporation and the State and monitoring by CPCB on the issue of safety measures against forest fires.
The NGT, Delhi branch directed the Chief Secretary of Punjab to take action as per the recommendations of the Monitoring report.
In terms of recommendations referred in the report, the Municipal Corporation Ludhiana was directed to deposit Rs 100 crore with the District Magistrate, Ludhiana, towards interim compensation within one month, to be kept in a separate account, to be utilised for remedial measures in terms of the report.