The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has held four companies, including government-owned oil majors BPCL and HPCL, responsible for creating "gas chamber-like condition" in Mumbai's Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas and directed them to pay Rs 286.2 crore for the damaged caused to the environment.
The green court directed the HPCL to pay Rs 76.5 crore, the BPCL Rs 67.5 crore, Aegis Logistics Ltd Rs 142 crore and the Sea Lord Containers Ltd Rs 0.2 crore.
The green court held that the four companies were mainly responsible for the presence of hazardous volatile organic compounds - created by burning gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas - in Mahul and Ambapada villages.
"The prolonged exposure to hazardous air pollutants even at miniscule level may weaken the lungs and other organs. Conditions prevailing in the area are sometimes likened to that of gas chamber," the tribunal said, accepting the computation of fine by the Central Pollution Control Board.
For controlling air pollution in Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas, as sought by petitioner Charudatt Koli, the NGT said a 10-member joint committee may prepare an action plan "for dealing with health issues of inhabitants and measures to control pollution in...contiguous areas".
This entire area would be called the Special Air Pollution Control Area for the restoration plan, the bench said.
The panel for creating a restoration plan of the overall area would have representatives from the CPCB, Environment Ministry, state pollution control board, District Magistrate, NEERI, TISS, IIT-Mumbai, KEM Hospital and Maharashtra Health Secretary.
Breathing volatile organic compounds are known to cause difficulty in breathing, damage the central nervous system and other organs, besides causing irritation in the eyes, nose and throat.
(With inputs from agencies)