Railway stations across the country are required to obtain necessary environmental permissions as several polluting activities take place there, the National Green Tribunal has said.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said there can be no dispute about the proposition that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 also applies to major railway stations.
Directing the Railways to take into account recommendations of the Central Pollution Control Board on implementing the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the tribunal asked it to implement action plans for making stations clean.
"The team comprising of CPCB and concerned state pollution control board will evaluate the performance of major railway stations both in terms of implementation of action plans and compliance to the provisions of the Water Act, Air Act and Environmental Protection Act and Rules framed thereunder..." it said.
The NGT said the object of the Environment Act is to control air pollution and if pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere by activities at railway stations, they cannot be excluded from such definition so as to avoid remedial measures.
"The Rules framed under the said Act include solid waste, plastic waste, bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, construction, and debris waste, e-waste Rules. Several activities take place at major railway stations which may attract provisions of the Rules. The said Rules have, thus, to be complied by all the major railway stations, to the extent applicable," the bench said.
The NGT said that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, is umbrella legislation that enables the central government to frame rules on the subject of environmental protection and to issue directions.
"Rules framed applied to every generator of waste and occupier of the place where waste is generated. Undoubtedly, the railway premises are such places. The Railway Administration is the occupier of such places where waste is generated.
"It is difficult to accept that activity of railway establishments at major railway stations having the potential of causing pollution are beyond the environmental laws of the land," the bench said.
It said that major stations ''prima facie'' cannot be excluded from the ambit of the Water Act and the Air Act.
"It is, thus, clear that wherever there is a significant generation of solid and liquid waste and gaseous emissions, the Water Act and the Air Act are attracted so that regulatory functions can be exercised.
There is every reason to presume that major railway stations (classified as such by the Railway Administration itself) are generating solid waste and discharging liquid wastewater as well as releasing gaseous emissions unless shown to the contrary," it said.
CPCB told the bench that out of 36 stations, five stations (Vadodara, Mysuru, Jaipur, Bilaspur, and Vishakhapatnam) are in the "Good" category and have achieved ISO 14001 certification. However, as none of the stations has obtained consents under the Air Act and Water Act and authorization under Hazardous Waste (Management and Trans-boundary Movement ) Rules 2016, none of them can be certified "Eco Smart".
The NGT had earlier directed the Railways to identify and develop at least 36 stations as ''eco-smart stations'' and to submit an action plan for maintaining cleanliness on platforms and tracks.
The green panel had asked the Comptroller and Auditor General to conduct a performance audit at regular intervals.
The NGT had said there was an urgent need for the railways to put in place an effective implementation and monitoring mechanism with provisions of fixing the accountability of individuals in respect of solid waste disposal, littering of solid and plastic wastes, defecation, etc.
The NGT was hearing a petition filed by lawyers Saloni Singh and Arush Pathania seeking steps to check pollution on railway properties, particularly on tracks.