The TCN@CAG team on 22nd December 2015, attended another hearing of the case related to the cleaning of Chennai’s waterways filed by Mr. Edwin Wilson at the southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Chennai. The counsels for Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT), Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), industries charged for polluting the Cooum (namely, Madras Fertilizers, Chennai Petroleum and Ennore Thermal Power Plant) and the petitioner were present in the court for the hearing. The day’s proceeding at NGT assumed significance as the bench passed an order suspending the commercial operation of Madras Fertilizers for not stopping the discharge of effluents even after the show cause notice served by TNPCB. The following is a brief summary of the proceeding of the case at NGT on that day.

Foaming and coloured effluents flowing into the Cooum river near Paruthipattu. Indiscriminate discharge of effluents by industries is one of the main reasons of pollution in the Cooum.
Foaming and coloured effluents flowing into the Cooum river near Paruthipattu. Indiscriminate discharge of effluents by industries is one of the main reasons of pollution in the Cooum.

  • In the last hearing, the CRRT was asked to submit the project status report along with the details of the fund allocation to all the concerned line departments, the TNPCB was asked to submit a report after carrying out the inspection of the industries charged for pollution, and the 3 polluting industries i.e. Madras Fertilizers, Chennai Petroleum and Ennore Thermal Power Plant, were asked to take action to stop the discharge of effluents into Cooum and submit reports to TNPCB. The judge reminded the respective respondents about this earlier direction.
  • The counsel for the government said that CRRT could not come out with the report as all the concerned officials from all departments were deputed for emergency works caused by the floods. The counsel requested the bench to give a reasonable time to submit the report. The judge agreed to it but with a remark saying that it has become a habit for the departments to buy time and drag the case citing some reason or the other.
  • The counsel for Penn Thozhilalar Sangam (PTS), an unorganised women workers’ Union, informed the bench that they will implead in the case on behalf of two of the to-be affected slums (namely MGR Colony and Om Shakthi Nagar). The bench took note of it.
  • The counsel for TNPCB submitted the inspection reports before the bench. The report gave a clean chit to two of the three industries charged for polluting the Cooum. The report said that Chennai Petroleum and Ennore Thermal Power plant have complied with all the stipulated standards put forth by TNPCB whereas Madras Fertilizers did not comply with the requirements and is still found to discharge effluents into Cooum.
  • The bench accepted the report submitted by TNPCB but wondered how TNPCB could come out with a report giving clean chit to the industries within a very short time.
  • When the bench asked the counsel for Madras Fertilizers to respond to the charge, he said the company had complied with two of the requirements and they are in the process of addressing the third requirement and requested the bench to give more time taking into account the recent floods which have affected the operation of the factory.
  • The bench observed that in the report submitted by TNPCB it is clearly mentioned that the show-cause notice was served on Madras Fertilizers and yet there is no compliance from them and it continues to discharge the effluents into Cooum till date. The bench sternly observed that they cannot tolerate such things as the NGT is answerable to the society.
  • Subsequent to the arguments the bench passed an order directing Madras Fertilisers to suspend all commercial operations till they comply with all the standards listed out by TNPCB and get its consent. The bench also ordered CRRT to submit a report explaining whether the government proposes to make any changes to the Cooum restoration plan taking into account the severe flooding that happened in November and December. The bench passed another direction to the TNPCB to submit before the next hearing the particulars of 3 educational institutions which have been found to be discharging sewage into the Cooum. The bench posted the case for next hearing to 27th January 2016.