New Delhi: Inspectors of central and state pollution control boards are filing ambiguous and incomplete inspection reports, with grave consequences for the environment, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said, warning of heavy fines.

This is not the first time the tribunal has criticised inspection reports but the warning, issued in an order last week, effectively serves as the last chance for pollution control boards to clean up their act.

The green tribunal was hearing a case related to pollution from a unit of Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh)-based Ramaa Shyama Papers Ltd.

“We have repeatedly informed the officers of the boards (Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards) that when a joint inspection report is made, the recommendations are to be clear and unambiguous. It is unfortunate that despite specific directions, the reports are non-specific and lack clarity," noted a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar.

Joint inspection is carried out by team of officers from the Central Pollution Control Board and officers of the respective State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB).

“If in future such ambiguous reports are submitted to the tribunal, we will be compelled to impose heavy costs on the officers who have conducted the inspection," Kumar said.

The tribunal reiterated that inspection reports should include details like complete functioning of the unit or industry, water source, water utilization, quantum of discharge, anti-pollution devices installed, their complete details and functioning, fixation of electromagnetic flow meters, how they deal with hazardous waste and its disposal among others.

Inspection reports are also meant to include information like whether an industrial unit has permission from the Central Ground Water Authority to use groundwater and whether the conditions of the consent order to operate have been strictly complied with.

“We make it clear that if any report is now lacking these aforesaid particulars, action would be taken against the officers," the tribunal observed. “Tribunal rely on the inspection report, particularly joint inspection report, for passing appropriate orders in accordance with law."

“While relying upon such reports the Tribunal has to adopt an approach which totally protects the environment. If the reports are vague and incorrect, either way, the consequences are serious. For a unit, if it is compliant and because of the vague report, it is directed to be closed, it will be injustice. So also if the unit is not compliant and because of vague, uncertain and indefinite report the unit is permitted to operate, the damage to the environment can be great and serious," the bench added.

The tribunal noted that this was not the first time that inspection reports had been found lacking in detail.

“We issue these directions as in spite of the directions which have been issued earlier to the Boards, the reports are wanting in compliance. This is the last opportunity we grant to the Boards," the bench noted.

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