A plea seeking a ban on the manufacture, use and import of solar panels containing antimony, a heavy metal, has prompted the National Green Tribunal to seek the reply from the Centre and the pollution control board. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notice to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the Ministry of Commerce and the Central Pollution Control Board and sought their response before August 24. Solar panels (also known as PV panels) are used to convert sunlight into electricity. The plea, filed by advocate Niharika, said with increasing use of solar modules and panels under the National Solar Mission, the scientific disposal of antimony posed several problems for the environment. The petition claimed that antimony was at present being dumped in landfill sites along the solar panels which were crushed after use. It sought a direction to the CPCB to amend the E-Waste Rules, 2016 and bring antimony within scope of Rules 16 pertaining to hazardous substances. “Solar modules that could produce six gigawatts power were imported from China last year, and each GW had four million modules that weighed 52,000 tonnes,” it said.
The plea said that the CPCB should pass a direction to permit import of only those solar modules that do not contain antimony. It also sought random sampling of the solar modules in the collaboration of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to verify the existence of hazardous substances, including antimony.
The petition asked for a direction to the respondents and the environment monitoring agencies to immediately undertake remedial measures to limit the damage caused to the environment by submitting an action plan showing how to deal with future disposal of solar and solar panels.