Pune: After fighting a long battle against a Parbhani based sugar factory, a poor fisherman finally got relief from National Green Tribunal (NGT). NGT recently directed the sugar factory to pay Rs5 lakh as environment restitution costs to the district collector for causing pollution and supporting activities against the environment at the Mazalgaon Right Canal, Mannath Lake. The compensation amount will be utilised for environment awareness initiatives and tree plantation and also pay additional amount of Rs 1 lakh to fisherman as cost of litigation.
Fisherman Vitthal Bhungase, a resident of Dusalgaon in Parbhani had moved his plaint before NGT last year, through his lawyers Asim Sarode and Vikas Shinde against the respondents Gangakhed Sugar and Energy Limited, Parbhani, factory chairman Ratnakar Gutte, The state of Maharashtra, The secretary Ministry of Animal Husbandary, the collector of Parbhani, The Maharashtra Pullution Control Board and the executibve engineer of Mazalgaon Jaikwadi Irrigation Project.
The NGT west zone (Pune) bench Justice Vikas R Kingaonkar and expert member Ajay Deshpande has observed that the Polluter Pay's Principal is commonly interpreted as, the polluter must pay for, the cost of pollution abatement, cost of environment damage recovery, cost of incident management and compensation costs for the victims of the incident, if any, due to pollution. It implies that those who caused environmental damage by polluting should pay the costs of reversing that damage and also controlling the further damage. And it was evident that spillage of molasses occurred due to construction default at the factory of not providing the proper base for this storage tank. The result was that the molasses gushed out and spilled over, leading to soil contamination and leachate leading to environmental damage to the surrounding area including the canal and Mannat lake."
Bhungase plaint stated that , "The factory is creating the environmental damage, supporting and assisting the illegal anti-environment acts. The factory is releasing industrial wastes, molasses and chemical mixed water must be stopped, so that purity of Mazalgaon right canal and Mannath lake shall be maintained. Fishermen are given Mannat lake on lease for fishing rights for business by Fisheries department for three years, the factory effluents discharge from industry is polluting the water in Mazalgaon right cannal and Mannat Lakh, causing water pollution and thereby causing a threat to human health, fishery yield and ecology."
He added, "Factory wherein pollution of the lake and the canal has been mentioned and also certain damages caused have been cited by the Irrigation Department."
Bhungane's lawyer Sarode argued, The records and evidence presented by the complainants indicated that the pollution occurring in the Mannath Lake and tank were the sole responsibility of Gangakhed Sugar Factory, and it occurred due to non-treatment of effluents discharged by the factory, even after being communicated to do so by the deputy commissioner, Parbhani and sub divisional officer.
Factory lawyer prayed for dismiss the application of Bhungase and argued, "The industry has three basic units namely sugar unit, distillery unit and co-generation unit. The sugar plant is of 600MT per day sugar production capacity and is equipped with effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) capacity of 720 M3 per day which is sufficent to meet the treatment norms stipulated by MPCB. The industry has invested substantial capital amount for installing the state of pollution control system. The MPCB is competent authority for investigating the issues related to industrial pollution and never held factory liable."
The Rs5lakh that the company has to pay includes the cost of water replenishment in Mannat lake and the cost of investigation by the collector of Parbhani and the Central Industries of Fisheries Education."