The National Green Tribunal has slapped an environment compensation (EC) of Rs 25 lakh on one of the country’s largest sugar firms for extracting groundwater without permission and polluting the environment in Uttar Pradesh. The green panel has held that two units of Balrampur Chini Mills in Balrampur and Babhnan and Manakpur Chini Mills in Gonda districts of UP and Rauzagaon Chini Mills in Barabanki were discharging large quantity of waste water into the Ganga through the rivers Rapti and Ghaghra and withdrawing groundwater without obtaining permission from the Central Ground Water Authority.
Balrampur Chini Mills is considered to be the second largest sugar mill in the country. Invoking the ‘polluter pays principle’, the NGT said these units were liable to pay Rs 5 lakh each as EC for polluting the environment, committing breach of the terms and conditions of the consent orders and failing to install appropriate anti-pollution devices.
In environmental law, the ‘polluter pays principle’ was enacted to make the party responsible for pollution responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also directed Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board to jointly inspect all these industries and submit a detailed and comprehensive report within six weeks.
An additional environment compensation of Rs 5 lakh was imposed on Manakpur Chini Mills for causing death of animals and birds through the release of ammonia gas and polluting the environment. The judgement was delivered on a plea by an environment activist who had alleged that these industries were illegally extracting groundwater and operating their distilleries which were discharging effluents without treatment in the nearby rivers.
The petitioner had sought a comprehensive study with regard to the impact of water and air pollution caused by the respondents and a detailed study with regard to lowering of the groundwater table in the area. Balrampur Chini Mills has 11 sugar factories in Uttar Pradesh, having an aggregate crushing capacity of 79,000 tonnes of sugarcane per day. It has three distilleries.