The National Green Tribunal imposed a fine of Rs. 286 Crores on Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Aegis Logistic and Sealord Containers for contributing to the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the air of Mumbai’s Mahul and Ambapada village held by the principal bench of NGT headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice SP Wangdi and Dr. Styawan Garbyal in Charudatt Koli versus M/s Sea Lord Containers Ltd [I.A. Nos. 197/2020].
The facts that relate to the case arise wherein the execution petitioner filed for execution of NGT’s order dated 18/12/15 where the tribunal found the major contributors to the air pollution in Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas were the logistic service, storing oil, gas and chemical items as well as oil companies releasing emissions of VOCs during loading, storage and unloading or handling of hazardous chemicals at various stages. The tribunal found the deteriorating quality of air in those areas harmful of its residents. The tribunal considered the report of the joint committee which found damage to air quality due to VOC emissions and also suggested steps for control, the tribunal directed remedial action and assessment of compensation based on polluters pay principle.
The Hon’ble High Court observed that “While it is true that there may be many reasons for the presence of VOCs in the atmosphere like vehicular emissions, etc., it cannot be denied that the said four companies e.g. ALL, SLCL, BPCL and HPCL contribute substantially and predominantly to the VOCs in Mahul and Ambapad villages. It is also scientifically proven that VOCs are a potential cause for various serious ailments if humans are exposed to them for a long time. Prolonged exposure to HAPs even at a minuscule level may weaken the lungs and other organs. Conditions prevailing in the area are sometimes likened to that of the ‘Gas Chamber’. It was only because of these reasons that the respondent companies had been taking actions to arrest the fugitive emissions which were particularly noticeable after 2015 and of late the industries have acted on implementation of action plan”
The Hon’ble Court accepted the report and determine the liability of the respondents accordingly without a deterrent factor. Compensation for the damage caused due to VOC pollutants emitted by the industries is assessed.
Hence, the tribunal directed the respondent companies to pay a compensation of Rs. 286.2 crores and constituted a 10 member joint committee comprising of senior members of CPCB, MoEFF & CC, State CPCB, District Magistrate, NEERI, TISS, IIT Mumbai, KEM Hospital and a nominee of Health Secretary Maharashtra, to prepare an action plan for restoration measures spread over a span of not beyond 5 years.
Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari