Fighting against POLLUTION to Save Environment
Response to writ petitions filed by PETL, JETL, and 38 industries connected with JETL

  1. The Indian Council for Enviro Legal Action and others filed a W.P. No.1056/90 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding pollution problems in Patancheru area of Medak District. The Hon’ble Supreme Court heard the matter during the period from 1990 to 2001 (ten years) and issued various directions from time to time. These directions were regarding supply of drinking water in pollution affected villages, payment of compensation for crop damage and pollution control measures by individual industries and CETPs, etc.
  2. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its order dated 05.05.98 directed the CPCB & APPCB to prepare a scheme of action for containing the industrial pollution, for disposal of industrial wastes, for reclaiming the polluted lands and also for the supply of drinking water. Accordingly, the CPCB and APPCB submitted a Joint Action Plan (JAP) recommending short, medium and long term measures to contain water contamination of Isakavagu / Nakkavagu, for satisfactory functioning of the CETPs at Patancheru, Bollaram and Jeedimetla and to restore the affected areas to normal conditions. The Hon’ble Court in its order dt. 12.05.98 directed implementation of the JAP.
  3. The SCMC was set up by this Hon’ble Court to monitor implementation of the directions given in the order dated 14.10.2003 in the matter of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes in WP No.657/1995.
  4. The SCMC has been visiting various states and the various reports of actions taken in pursuance of the directions given in 14.10.2003 have been filed in this Hon’ble Court.
  5. The SCMC visited the state of AP on five occasions. During one of the visits, relying on the powers given it under paras 55 and 68 of the order dated 14.10.2003, the Committee set up a Local Area Environment Committee, headed by eminent emeritus scientist, Prof. Navneeth Rao, to monitor the progress of actions more closely on the ground and to report directly to it.
  6. The SCMC visited the PETL and JETL, the two common effluent treatment plans (CETPs) that process the effluents from the industrial units within the two industrial estates of Patancheru and Jeedimetla respectively
  7. When the SCMC visited both CETPs, it found that the plants had not only ceased implementing the actions mandated by the orders issued by the apex court in 1056/90, but their operations were grossly in violation of the order dated 14.10.2003 as well.
  8. The SCMC found the following:

    1. Both CETPs were found to be storing hazardous waste in contravention of the apex court order dated 14.10.2003 and the Hazardous Waste Rules, 1989. Pursuant to directions issued by the SCMC, the hazardous wastes were taken to the TSDF.
    2. Both CETPs were not conforming to norms for discharge to surface waters in several parameters; both CETPs were also found to be generating far less hazardous wastes than would normally be associated with full and proper functioning of these plants. This required investigation.
    3. Both CETPs were not properly treating their wastes but mostly diluting them with sewage and thereafter discharging them in sewers. Since these discharges were containing high TDS, the SCMC found the practice unacceptable and insisted that the discharged effluent follow EPA norms. This it did in line with its efforts to bring CETPs in other states like TN and Maharashtra in line with TDS norms where the environment required such restrictions.
    4. Water supply to affected villages, mandated by the 1998 orders, was unsatisfactory and inadequate.
    5. None of the areas contaminated with hazardous wastes and pollutants was being reclaimed or rehabilitated. There swas hardly any progress to comply with directions of SC in this regard.

  9. The SCMC has been strictly implementing the directions given in the order dated 14.10.2003 in the case of CETPs across the country. It has insisted on CETPs meeting TDS norms as otherwise hazardous wastes are being discharged via water route into the open environment. Sludges from CETPs are covered under the HW Rules. SCMC has visited CETPs in TN, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, Delhi and AP. The basis of uniform environment protection measures would be undermined if two CETPs in AP, that too discharging to a non-marine environment, would be made exceptions to the norms. This is violation of standards notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  10. Accordingly, the SCMC insisted that the two CETPs follow EPA norms. The AP PCB therefore issued fresh directions on 5.8.2005 to both CETPs. These directions are now sought to be impugned in the batch of 40 writ petitions before this Hon’ble Court (WP.441/2005; WP No.476/2005 and 38 others). The SCMC does not wish to respond to each and every statement or averment made in these petitions. However, it has set out below the reasons why the petitions do not serve public interest or the interests of environment protection and also violate environment laws and the order of this Court dated 14.10.2003 which cannot be read except in harmony with the orders passed by this Hon’ble Court in WP No.1056/90.
  11. Any order passed in these petitions allowing them to pollute and cause adverse impacts on environment and health would certainly be a setback to the efforts of the SCMC to ensure strict and full implementation in letter and spirit of the order dated 14.10.2003 and the earlier orders of this Hon’ble Court. It would weaken enforcement of the directions generally in the state of AP.
  12. Comments of the SCMC on the PETL petition:
  13. The issues involved in the PETL case are (apart from the matter of illegal storage of hazardous sludges, now corrected by them) the following:

    1. Whether the unit can continue to discharge effluent with high TDS into inland rivers from the time of the judgement dated 14.10.2003 in violation of EPA norms?
    2. Whether the proposal to discharge the effluent in its present condition to Amberpet sewage plant is still acceptable in 2004 (when the SCMC first visited the CETP), despite the time exceeded in 2002 with no extension of time granted by this Court;
    3. Whether the SCMC would have allowed discharge of effluents not meeting EPA standards in 2003 even if the pipeline had been commissioned and utilized for its purpose on time?
    4. Whether any unit treating effluents can be permitted to discharge these into either river or public sewer or sewage plant without first treating them to meet the current norms in force?

  14. One of the elements of the Action Plan of 1998 (see para 2 above) was to enable the PETL CETP to transfer its treated effluents through an 18 km pipeline to the Amberpet STP. The SCMC found that the solution would be in violation of the latest Supreme Court order dated 14.10.2003 which requires reduction in the generation of hazardous wastes. By mixing hazardous wastes with sewage, the committee felt the CETP was increasing phenomenally the quantities of hazardous wastes as the sewage too would now become hazardous
  15. The SCMC visited M/s. PETL, Patancheru on 20.10.2004 and issued certain directions on 10.11.2004. The orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court issued in the W.P.No.1056/90 relating to the pipeline project were brought to the notice of the Committee by the APPCB through its report dated 23.12.2004. After review, the SCMC issued the following directions on 12.02.2005 to the APPCB and the State Government:

    1. The Common Effluent Treatment Plants at Patancheru and Jeedimetla will take steps to ensure that the effluents discharged from the plants are in future in conformity with EPA norms within a time-bound period. Time limit for this is mandatory and to be fixed after discussion with plant managements.
    2. The Common Effluent Treatment Plants will take steps to install necessary equipment to ensure that their effluents meet the standard for re-usable water and the discharges into the public environment including rivers is suspended within a time bound period.
    3. The PETL plant is restrained from transferring its effluents through 18 km pipeline to the Amberpet STP.

  16. In view of the above, the SCMC asked the government of AP not to allow use of the 18 kms pipeline for discharge of partially untreated effluent. (After reviewing the matter again, the Chairman, SCMC, on 10.8.2005, allowed use of the 18 km pipeline but subject to the condition that the effluent would be treated as per EPA norms before being allowed into the pipeline to enable the activity to conform to the more recent order dated 14.10.2003 in WP.No.657/1995.)
  17. The SCMC sought a restraint on the use of the pipeline also on the ground that the PETL had also not sought extension of time from the Supreme Court after 2002 as it was duty bound to do. The apex court would then have taken appropriate action seeing that PETL was using the delay to continue discharging its partially treated wastes into surface waters in violation of norms imposed.
  18. The APPCB submitted a compliance status report to the SCMC on 27.04.2005. The SCMC visited A.P. again during May 15-17, 2005 and in its report communicated vide letter dt. 24.06.2005 informed the AP Board that the SCMC has insisted upon and got compliance from CETPs in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in respect of laid down standards and therefore CETPs in AP cannot be treated on a separate footing. The SCMC stated that at the present moment, it is not inclined to modify any of its earlier directions for implementation of the order dated 14.10.2003 and will revisit the matter with APPCB.
  19. On 04.08.2005, the SCMC convened a meeting with the members of the LAEC, the officials of EFS&T Department, APPCB, management of CETPs and member units of M/s. JETL and M/s. PETL in the office of the APPCB, Hyderabad to discuss the implementation of the directions issued by the SCMC to ensure implementation of the order dated 14.10.2003 and an opportunity was given to the CETPs to express their views. During the meeting, the SCMC reiterated its earlier stand that the directions issued by it on 12.02.2005 would have to be enforced.
  20. The 18-km pipeline project is yet to be completed. It is felt that the pipeline along with proper treatment facility at Amberpet will take considerable time before it gets operational. However, the CETP is using this as an excuse at the moment to discharge partially treated effluents into Isukavagu/Nakkavagu which ultimately reaches the river Manjeera. SCMC took note of such dereliction of responsibility by member industries and PETL and directed the Board to revise the standards for both inlet as well as outlet of PETL as per EPA norms. It is evident from the chronology of events and directions issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court from time to time, reports of the Fact Finding Committee filed before the Hon'ble AP High Court dealing with the matter after it was reverted to the AP High Court by the apex court, that the standards prescribed in 1998 consisting of only 4 parameters were not adequate to prevent detrimental effects on the environment. APPCB is free, under section 27 of the Water Act 1974, to revise and impose its own standards, more stringent than the one specified in the Hon'ble Supreme Court order or MOEF/CPCB norms.