Kochi civic body plans to file appeal against NGT’s ₹100 crore fine
The NGT on Saturday pulled up the corporation and the state government for violating the statutory sold waste management rules and orders of the apex court repeatedly
The Kochi Corporation is planning to move the court against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) decision to impose ₹100 crore fine on the civic body for its failure in waste management that resulted in 12-day-long fire at the solid waste dump yard in Brahmapuram.
The massive fire and billowing smoke that started on March 2 was finally controlled by March 14 and the city was filled with toxic fumes forcing more than 1400 people to seek medical aid. The principal bench of the NGT headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel on Saturday pulled up the corporation and the state government for violating the statutory sold waste management rules and orders of the apex court repeatedly.
But Kochi Mayor M Anil Kumar said the civic body was not heard before imposing such a heavy penalty. “This order will put big financial implications on the corporation. The NGT imposed its decision without hearing us or considering its implications. We will file an appeal after consulting legal experts,” he said adding it was a two-decade-long “systemic failure” and legacy waste was not a recent phenomenon.
Minister for Local Self Government M B Rajesh also said the government views the order seriously and will mull legal options. The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front is ruling the civic body in last two years and the fire invited enough embarrassment to the state government also. Kochi is being considered as the commercial capital of the state.
In the order NGT has passed severe strictures against the city corporation and the government. “It is difficult to understand the value of a citizen’s right to life and safety with such an attitude of neglect by government authorities. This calls for soul searching and high-level of enquiry to determine culpability in larger public interest,” the order said. It also said no one has taken moral responsibility for such “gross failure of rule of law and damage to public health.”
In its order the NGT said the amount fined under Section 15 of the NGT Act should be deposited with the chief secretary within a month. It also directed the chief secretary to fix accountability and initiate action under the criminal law and departmental proceedings against officials and others responsible for the fire.
“No accountability for such serious failure has been fixed. Except for giving future plans, no fixing of accountability is proposed even now which is a matter of regret,” the order said. Besides the high court, the NGT had also registered a case suo motu after the fire choked the city.
There was widespread criticism over the way the government handled the fire that lasted for 12 days engulfing the city with toxic smoke and fumes. The opposition Congress and BJP alleged ministers visited the spot a week after the incident and effective intervention should have limited damage and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan also made a statement in the assembly after 12 days.
Besides the ongoing police investigation, the government had ordered the vigilance to investigate reasons into the fire and an expert team was also constituted to study after- effects of the blaze and submit recommendations for effective treatment of waste. In Brahmapuram, land fill was spread across 40 acres of land accumulating huge mound of 5.5 lakh cubic metres.
Though embers of fire died down its repercussions are far from over, said experts. A study conducted in rain drops by popular science writer and researcher Rajgopal Kamath in the city showed PH value was 4.70. “I have been testing rain water since the first shower last week. It was 4.5 then but on Saturday it went up to 4.70. It is acid rain and it is a matter of serious concern,” he said.