New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal Thursday held that biomedical waste (BMW) treatment plants are required to obtain environmental clearance (EC) before these are set up as it is a hazardous waste which can produce large number of infectious diseases.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar observed that BMW, if not dealt with properly, can have an adverse impact on public health and directed such treatment plants to obtain EC from environment ministry within a month.
"Scientific studies show that bio-medical waste is one of the more serious and hazardous pollutants and it can produce large number of infectious diseases which would be very harmful to the humanity at large. Their impact on public health can be very adverse and it is not only expected but is mandatory that such bio-medical waste is dealt with strictly.
"We hold that the bio-medical waste treatment plants are required to obtain environmental clearance...We direct all the appellants (BMW treatment plants) and respondents (project proponents) to obtain EC in terms of site location, potential environmental impacts and proposed environmental safeguards from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in accordance with law.
"If such applications are filed before MoEF, the same shall be dealt with and disposed of expeditiously," the bench, also comprising judicial member Justice U D Salvi, said.
After the counsel for Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) sought that a time frame be fixed for the BMW units to approach MoEF for EC, the bench directed that "applications by the plants handling, segregating and treating BMW shall apply to MoEF within one month from today".
While holding that EC is a requirement prior to setting up a BMW treatment plant, the tribunal observed in its verdict that "industrial development cannot be permitted to ignore environmental interests and damage the ecology or ambient environmental quality irretrievably.
"The units or plants which violate the prescribed standards and cause serious pollution, are to be dealt with strictly in accordance with the prescribed penal or other consequences which may even include the closure of a unit."
The bench was of the view that since common hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities require EC prior to being set up as they deal with different varieties of waste, similarly, BMW is comprised of different types of wastes and any unit handling/treating it would also require clearance from appropriate authority.
The appellants, who are running the plants, which handle, treat and dispose of bio-medical waste, in their plea had contended that since they have the authorisation from the Haryana Pollution Control Board (HPCB) and that they complied with all the requirements of law, the imposition of additional conditions by CPCB, particularly those in relation to the furnishing of bank guarantees of Rs 10 lakh, are arbitrary and contrary to law.
The correctness and legality of the notices issued by the CPCB had been challenged by the BMW treatment plants.
Another ground that had been taken by all the appellants was that the CPCB had acted in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner as it had allowed a Gurgaon-based BMW treatment plant - Vulcan Management Company - to carry on their activity even though the said unit allegedly does not adhere to the basic requirements.
However, Vulcan while denying the allegation had contended that all BMW treatment plants require EC from the competent authority under a MoEF Notification of 2006 and since none of the appellants have the EC, they cannot be permitted to function.
CPCB had contented that since BMW is "more hazardous" than the other waste, it is treated separately and has a different set of rules governing its management and disposal.
The authority said that as per the Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, environment clearance is not a requirement.
The only requirement for setting up a BMW disposal plant is clearance from the municipal corporation, the CPCB had said, whose stand had been adopted by the appellant units as well.
The issue had come up before the tribunal while dealing with the status of BMW disposal in hospitals in Delhi and Haryana.