Concerned over their unsatisfactory manning and functioning, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a performance audit of all state pollution control boards and pollution control committees within six months.
The green panel expressed dissatisfaction over governance on the part of the state pollution control boards and said it has resulted in large number of deaths and diseases in the country and therefore, there is an urgent need to review the qualification and appointment procedure.
The direction came after the tribunal noted that people appointed in the Gujarat Pollution Control Board do not have technical or professional qualifications or background as expected.
"There is also need to carry out performance audit of functioning of all the pollution control boards and pollution control committees in the country and to identify remedial steps required in manning and functioning of these boards and committees or otherwise," it said.
"Unless strong effective regulatory regime is in place, and shortcomings identified and remedied to expect clean environment would be unrealistic and merely a dream," the NGT said.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said pollution cannot be allowed to be a "profitable activity" and deterrent action must be taken wherever pollution is found so as to render causing of pollution unprofitable and unacceptable to prevent damage to the health and lives of the citizens.
It said that any polluter must be subjected to heavy and deterrent economic sanctions but, unfortunately, this is not happening as expected for which failure the regulatory authority cannot disown their responsibility.
"The CPCB may conduct performance audit of all the state pollution control boards and pollution control committees within six months by constituting appropriate expert inspection teams and furnish a report to this tribunal. The CPCB may consider making performance audit at suitable intervals a regular feature of its working," the bench, also comprising justices SP Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan, said.
The green panel directed the Union Environment Ministry to constitute a three-member expert committee to consider steps to be taken to comply with the Supreme Court directions on the issue and suggestions for improvement in the effective functioning of the regulatory bodies for protection of the environment.
"The committee may suggest guidelines for functioning of the state pollution control boards and broad steps required for bringing air and water quality in polluted stretches and cities and industrial clusters and coastal/eco-sensitive zones within the prescribed norms and measures to be adopted, including recovery of damages, prosecution of offenders, restitution of contaminated and degraded environmental sites."
"The report of the committee may be furnished before the next date. CPCB may consider issuing appropriate directions in exercise of its statutory powers in the light of expert studies which may be carried out," the bench said.
The matter is posted for further consideration on August 19.
The tribunal's direction came while hearing a plea filed by Aryavart Foundation against discharge of untreated trade effluents by more than 500 industrial units in Vapi Industrial Cluster into Daman Ganga river in Valsad district in Gujarat which meets the Arabian Sea.