New Delhi: A halt on diesel vehicles in Delhi and cracking its whip with a slew of directions for restoring the pristine glory of the Ganga reflected the activist mode of National Green Tribunal that in 2015 got global attention in its endeavour for pollution-free environment.
The tribunal, which has been a busy hub of environmental issues, ranging from challenges to clearance granted to projects of big industries to protection of eco-sensitive areas like Rohtang Pass and Kaziranga National Park, achieved a feat of pronouncing 56 judgments in a single day on December 10 by settling 209 cases.
Barely five years into existence, the NGT's pro-active role was noticed by international media which praised its speedy redressal of pollution issues as an elated Chairman Swatanter Kumar stated that the green panel disposed of 82 per cent pending cases in 2014.
The extraordinary situations arising due to extreme environmental degradation demanded extraordinary measures and some of the tribunal's decisions like the ban on registration of new diesel-run vehicles in the national capital created controversy, confusion and hogged the limelight.
However, the NGT had the last laugh as the Supreme Court later put the stamp of approval on the steps taken by it to bring the pollution level down in the capital which has achieved a dubious distinction of world's most polluted city.
The tribunal also lived up to the expectation and trust bestowed on it by the apex court while delegating the panel with the issue of Ganga and it acted tough against the polluting industries by ordering their closure.
The green panel, which unveiled its plan to clean Ganga from Gomukh to Bay of Bengal, imposed complete ban on plastic from Gomukh to Haridwar and announced that if any hotel, dharamshala or ashram release waste into the river, it will have to pay environmental compensation of Rs 5,000 per day.
Rafting and camping activities in Uttarakhand also came under the scanner of NGT which banned camping activity in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh on the banks of Ganga till the regulatory regime comes into force but allowed the adventure sport rafting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's clean Ganga project also got a boost when NGT directed tanneries situated in Kanpur along the river to strictly comply with mandatory pollution norms and warned them of closure.
NGT, which banned rat-hole mining in Meghalaya, allowed transportation of coal with due "checks and balances" and sought coal mining plan from the state government with complete design and scientific methods to be adopted for safety of mines and its workers.
The construction of the 300 MW Lakhwar multi-purpose project being built by Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (UJVNL) and 2880 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project in Arunachal Pradesh also came under green panel's scrutiny which sought response from the government on the issue.
The tribunal, which refused to decommission the 400-megawatt Vishnu Prayag Hydro Electric Project, directed all nine hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand to build their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) and make them operational within three months.
It also ordered a halt to work on construction of a fifth tunnel at the site on Sawra Kuddu hydroelectric project in Himachal Pradesh and sought government's response to maintain a minimum of 15 per cent river flow downstream by hydroelectric projects across India.
It warned of shutting down thermal power plants and coal mines in Singrauli and Sonebhadra areas of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for causing acute air and water pollution, asking the states whether the people there have the right to live.
While taking a tough decision to help battle alarming pollution levels, the tribunal also asked the central and state government departments not to purchase diesel vehicles and there would be no renewal of registration of diesel vehicles which are more than 10-year-old.
It directed all commercial vehicles entering Delhi to pay environmental compensation charge in addition to the toll tax and ordered that all vehicles destined for places other than Delhi shall be diverted at Panipat to take alternate route via H-71A and NH-71 and exit at Bawal in Haryana.
Slamming the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Haryana Government for the excessive delay in construction of Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways, it directed them to complete the work expeditiously to divert the traffic from entering the capital.
Acting tough on alarming pollution level in Delhi-NCR, the Tribunal imposed a complete ban on burning of waste in open including garbage, leaves, plastic and crop residues and said violators will be fined Rs 5,000....