The residents of Ambapada and Mahul villages situated on the outskirts of Mumbai had filed an application in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) raising a substantial issue of air pollution caused by the industrial operations of oil, gas and chemical industries in these suburbs. The Applicants claimed that, these industries caused continuous emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which are essentially hazardous chemicals and many of them being carcinogenic, are posing serious threat to health of the local residents, in particular residents of Mahul and Ambapada villages.
As per the directions of the NGT, KEM Hospital, Mumbai conducted a respiratory morbidity survey in Mahul and Ambapada villages and reported that, majority of population had complaints of breathlessness, eye-irritation, chocking sensation in chest, cough, cold and running nose. On conducting pulmonary function testing in Chereshwar CHS Ltd. 7.3 % had mild restriction and 5% had mild obstruction. This survey conducted by KEM Hospital was alarming and reflected a major health concern for the residents of Mahul and Ambapada as the emissions from the industries were severely affecting their vital organs. The NGT after observing the report submitted by KEM Hospital observed that conditions prevailing in Mahul, Ambapada, and Chembur are sometimes likened to that of a ‘gas chamber’.
The NGT passed an order directing Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Sea Lord Containers Limited (SLCL), and Aegis Logistics Limited (ALL) to pay ₹286 crore as environmental compensation for causing air pollution in Mahul and surrounding areas. The NGT further directed MPCB (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board) to prepare a comprehensive action plan for control of air pollution in Mahul, Ambapada and Chembur areas with a focus on control of VOCs within 2 months and implement the same within next 12 months. The court also directed MPCB to carry out a VOC assessment study in the line with CEPI (Central Environment Pollution Index) as per the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) protocol and conduct health impact assessment study proposed by KEM Hospital for a minimum period of 3 years.
Aditya Thackeray, Environment Minister of Maharashtra recently held a meeting with the MoS for Environment Sanjay Bansode, Member Secretary of MPCB, officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and representatives of various industries in Mahul area. In this meeting he instructed the concerned departments and the industries to abide by the guideline issued by the NGT for pollution control in Mahul. The BMC officials proposed installing of five continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) in Mahul and surrounding areas to monitor and control the air pollution. Guaranteeing such stringent measures to enforce the NGT’s decision ensures the citizens fundamental right to clean environment. The residents of Mahul-Trombay have complained of dangerous levels of air pollution due to refineries and thermal power plants in the area which pose a health risk. The apex court has in multiple decisions reiterated that the fundamental ‘Right to Life’ guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution comprises of ‘Right to decent environment’ and also gives, by necessary implication, the right against environmental degradation. It is in the form of right to protect the environment, as by protecting environment alone can we provide a decent and clean environment to the citizenry.