Dissatisfied with UP-PCB’s report NGT asks panel to reassess discharge of effluents

Displeased with reports submitted by the State Pollution Control Board on the discharge of untreated effluents by a prominent sugar mill of Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal has directed a joint committee to inspect the site when it is operational and reassess the real situation.

The principal bench headed by its chairman Adarsh Kumar Goel has stipulated that the joint committee would conduct inspection of the site when the unit, Triveni Sugar Mill, is functional and submit its fact-finding report before the tribunal by December 15, 2021.

The tribunal’s directive came while hearing a petition alleging the discharge of untreated effluents by Triveni Sugar Mill located at Khatoli village in Muzaffarnagar district, UP. In the plea, the applicant has alleged that the discharge of untreated effluents is resulting in the contamination of groundwater in a one and a half kilometre radius of the mill.

The plea stated that due to continuing discharge of untreated effluents in the area, hundreds of people have died of cancer. It also alleged that inhabitants are not able to access potable water.

Subsequently, the tribunal on March 22, 2021 directed a joint committee comprising of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) officials and the District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar to inspect the site.

Following this the State PCB filed two reports – first, on July 2, 2021 and the second, on September 14 stating that the inspection was carried out when the unit was not functional due to it being the off-season and no discharge of effluents was found then.

“We are not satisfied with the stand of the State PCB. We do not find any justification why inspection was conducted when the unit was not functional due to off-season. While disapproving the stand taken in the reports of the PCB, we direct the Joint Committee to conduct inspection when the unit is functional and furnish a report to the Tribunal before December 15, 2021,” the NGT’s fresh order issued on September 21, read.

The tribunal specified that the report should indicate status of compliance with the standards as prior to the season, quality of treated effluents and utilisation as per the agreement with the users.

“It may also be mentioned whether effluents are reaching any drain leading to river/water body. Further, ground water quality be checked as per parameters relevant to the industry in question, particularly, fluoride etc,” the tribunal noted.

Triveni Sugar Mill is the largest in Asia in terms of both production and storage capacity.

Most of the country’s sugarcane is cultivated in Uttar Pradesh, which is known as the ‘sugar bowl of India’. With 155 sugar mills, the state is also home to the second-largest processing industry in India. Sugar is the backbone of the local economy, but its growing environmental impact is being ignored with potentially disastrous consequences.

As per the reports, in Uttar Pradesh, the biggest 56 sugar mills generate about 32 per cent of the state’s wastewater and discharge up to 85.7 million litres per day (MLD) into the riverine system.