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Important Supreme Court/High Court Orders
PIL File with respect to polluting Nira river, village Nimbut, due to manufacturing activities of M/s. Vam Organic Chemical Ltd.,Nimbut,Taluka:Baramati

                                    Sub:Order passed by High Court of Judicature at Bombay
                   PIL No.44/2001 filed by
                                         Janardan Kundlikrao Pharande & Anr.
                    Maharashtra Pollution Control Board & Ors.
                                    Ref:     Order dt.8/2/2006 passed by Hon’ble High Court.


Mr.Janardan K. Pharande & Mr.Balasaheb G. Kakde had filed one Public Interest Litigation against the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and 4 Ors. including M/s.Vam Organic Chemicals Ltd., Nimbut, Tal: Baramati, on the ground that the said unit is carrying on their manufacturing activities in Village : Nimbut and has been responsible for causing pollution of river Nira due to discharge of effluent from its activities. It is contended that the water of the river Nira has become blatant, resulting into dirty feelings to the persons come into contact with the water, also results into skin  irritation. The animals, who drink the water become sick & weak and may die. The water is said to be extremely prejudicial to the cultivation of land and adversely affect the standing crops. The unit has created lagoons and accumulated highly concentrated effluent, which is percolated to the water of Nira river as well as to the water of wells, which are situated nearby. The other cause was the composting activity started on 28 acres without N.A. permission, which is near to public road and human habitation.

 Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had filed a number of Affidavits in the said matter stating that Nira river at Nimbut falls under “A-IV” Class of Water. It was also stated in clear-cut terms that some underground percolations from the old lagoons noticed in the nalla and the quality of water in nalla is deteriorated in respect of parameters of BOD, COD, which was brought to the notice of the said industry. It is also pointed out that the unit was directed not to discharge any effluent to the river Nira and utilize total spent wash in the process namely Sprannihalator and composting as well as Bio-methanisation plant. The unit is also being asked to empty 18 lagoons in a time bound manner.

Thereafter, Hon’ble High Court has passed order dt.24/10/2001 directing the Board to test the water of river Nira to find out the nature of contamination / pollution and observed that if possible, the cause for pollution may be identified, including its source. If the river is polluted up-stream on account of the activities of any other units, it should take action against those units. If it is found that the pollution of the river water is only on account of percolation from the spent wash lagoons, obviously, we have to wait for some time till lagoons are dried up. The petitioners are directed to assist the Board in carrying out the compliance of directions

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issued by the Hon’ble Court. Hon’ble Cout also made it clear that the Respondent-Board will submit a report to the Court as to the action taken pursuant to the directions issued by the Court.

Thereafter, the Board had filed joint Affidavit of the Regional Officer and Sub-Regional Officer of the Board at Pune in compliance of the order passed by the Hon’ble Court on 24/11/2001, stating that the distillery of the above unit is overall consuming the effluent generated in Sprannihalator and composting as well as Bio-methanisation plant and made it clear that till lagoons are emptied, some percolations from the old lagoons can not be ruled out, but the Board is taking follow up action in empting those lagoons in a time bound manner as per the time schedule submitted to the Board by the unit i.e. on or before May, 2003.

The petitioners had filed an Additional Affidavit on 4/2/2002, objecting to the collection of samples by the Respondent-Board and not analyzing the parameters of temperature, colour, odour & test as well as arsenic, gross alpha activities & gross beta activities etc. in respect of river water.  Thereafter, the Regional Officer and Sub-Regional Officer, MPCB, Pune had filed reply on 16/2/2002 to the said Affidavit stating that the Respondent-Industry has provided incineration, bio-methanisation followed by secondary treatment and also provided scientific composting with provision for leachate collection and leak-proof guard pond of sufficient capacity by suitable lining & concreting arrangements for covering the compost during rainy season.  It was also pointed out that out of 28 parameters mentioned by the petitioners, only, 9 parameters are applicable to A-IV Class of water, which are tested by the Respondent-Board. It is also made clear that the parameters of Arsenic, Gross Alpha activities & Gross Beta activities are not analysed on account of not having any facility for analyzing the same with the Board and on account of these parameters are not source oriented from the Respondent-Industry. It is also made clear that the present effluent generated from the distillery activities totally consumed in the composting and other process and therefore, there is no direct discharge into the nalla / river.  Since, the nalla & river water have been classified as A-IV Class of water and the results of monitoring show that the quality of water is suitable for best designated usages, there was no necessity to take further action against the Respondent-Industry. The Board has also pointed out that the petitioners have not approached to the Board nor informed to the Board any violations on the part of the Respondent-Industry and the Board has not observed any abnormality in their monitoring. It is also made clear that the grievance of the petitioner is in respect of the old storages of spent wash, for which, the Respondent-Board already directed the distillery to reclaim the said lagoons or make it anaerobic, for which, time is also granted and therefore, Hon’ble High Court specifically observed in its order dt.24/10/2001 that if it is found that the pollution of river water is only on account of percolations from the spent wash stored in the lagoons, we have to wait for some time till lagoons are dried up. However, it was also made clear that if the petitioners find   that   the   Respondent-Industry    is
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discharging effluent into the river or elsewhere, they may bring it to the notice of the Respondent-Board for taking further necessary action.

Thereafter, Hon’ble High Court directed the Board to file affidavit giving present status of the Respondent-Industry in respect of the empting the 18 lagoons as directed by the Board in a time bound manner. Accordingly, the Regional Officer of the Board at HQ filed a detailed affidavit on 25/7/2003, pointing out that Dr.Munshilal Gautam, the then Member Secretary alongwith Regional Officer & Sub-Regional Officer, MPCB, Pune caused visit & inspection of the Respondent-Industry and observed that 12 lagoons were dewatered by February, 2003 by removing the sludge. However, in 6 lagoons the sludge remaining underneath due to slimy nature of the sludge, which makes it impossible to take out the sludge out of the lagoons manually and mechanically. The same can be removed after dried up. It is also pointed out that the Board is keeping constant vigil on the activities of the industry  and since, most of lagoons are emptied, the petition can be disposed off by directing the distillery to remove sludge from the remaining lagoons by 31/3/2004.

 Thereafter, the Regional Officer of the Board at Pune had filed one more Affidavit on 19/4/2004 giving further progress in respect of reclamation of lagoons, stating that 13 lagoons are already reclaimed successfully and in respect of 3 lagoons, it is pointed out that an almost impervious crust has been formed over contents of these lagoons underneath which the mass remained in slime form. It is also reported that because of its slimy nature, the slurry can not be easily handled due to its viscous and sticky properties. Therefore, the time may be extended for reclamation of the lagoons upto 31/5/2005.

 Last affidavit filed by Dr.D. B. Boralkar, Member Secretary of the Board in compliance of the order passed by Hon’ble High Court on 12/1/2006, giving the details of present status of the compliance on the basis of the visit & inspection carried out by the Regional Officer & Sub-Regional officer, MPCB Pune alongwith the statement showing the results of water quality of Nira river at Nimbut in comparison with A-IV class of standards laid down in the River Policy Notification dt.15/7/2000. It was specifically pointed out that the Respondent-Industry has utilized total spent wash stored / accumulated into the old lagoons for composting purposes as per verification report submitted by the Board officials. The details of effluent treatment plant were also submitted, stating that nothing is being discharged outside the activities of the industry into the environment and total effluent after primary treatment being utilized in the ferti-irrigation after secondary treatment in part and remaining for composting activity. 16 lagoons have been reclaimed by scrapping totally and two lagoons as well as one pond have been made impervious for further utilization and temporary storage until it is being utilized for composting & ferti-irrigation. The Bio-methanisation plant has been made operational, out of total available land, as high as 82.94 % is under cultivation and 73.69 % is cultivated. Therefore, it was prayed that the petition may kindly be disposed off.
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Hon’ble High Court after hearing, Dr.D.B. Boralkar, Member Secretary in person on 12/1/2006 has passed a detailed order and observed that the Respondent No.2 industry has complied with the interim directions issued on 17/3/2001 and all the lagoons have been reclaimed by the industry.

Therefore, the petition is disposed off without any cost.  This is a landmark case law, wherein, Hon’ble High Court has taken into consideration the practical difficulties of the new management, which has undertaken  the legacy of the earlier old management in respect of storage of old spent wash in 18 lagoons on account of the available technology adopted at that time, which got deteriorated. Subsequently, the old company, namely, M/s.Polychem Ltd., which had been closed down was taken over by M/s.Vam Organic Chemicals Ltd. some time in the year, 1999 and it has provided above fullfledged treatment & disposal arrangements. The said company has not only complied with the consent conditions but also a number of directions issued by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board including reclamation of 18 lagoons provided by earlier company M/s.Polychem Ltd. Therefore,  Hon’ble High Court after monitoring the above case for more than 5 years and on the basis of the report of Dr.D.B. Boralkar, Member Secretary of the Board has come to the conclusion that nothing further remains to be done in the writ petition and therefore, the petition is disposed off without cost.

Shri D. T. Devale, Sr.Law Officer assisted by  Mrs.Neelam Kubal, Asstt. Law Officer and Shri V.N. Mundhe, Regional Officer, MPCB, Pune, Shri P.P. Dhaygude & Shri P.B. Barbole, Sub-Regional Officers at Pune have taken active part in securing the compliance of the orders passed by the Hon’ble Court from time to time and the directions issued by the Board.