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Government tells Delhi civic body to pay Rs 25-crore air pollution penalty

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled municipalities are likely be headed for another face-off with the government asking the civic bodies to pay the ₹25 crore fine that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed on it for failing to curb air pollution in the city.

The NGT had penalised the government in December last year on a petition filed by two city residents Satish Kumar and Mahavir Singh, alleging pollution caused due to the burning of plastic, leather, rubber and other waste materials in north in north-west areas of Delhi, particularly Mundka, Tikri Kalan, Ranhola, where a number of footwear factories operate.

In a letter dated April 5, 2019, Raajiv Yaduvanshi, the principal secretary of urban development department (Delhi government) asked the north and south municipal corporations to pay the fine. Yaduvanshi argued that since under Clause 6 of the Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016), local bodies were responsible for “setting up an infrastructure for collection, segregation and disposal of plastic waste”, the fine should be paid by municipalities.

HT has a copy of the letter. Yaduvanshi wrote that while north body should pay ₹18 crore, its south counterpart should pay the rest, ₹7 crore. The letter cited “total failure ” of the civic bodies in handling plastic waste.

Senior municipal officials said the government directive was unfair. A senior South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) official, requesting anonymity, said, “The government has not even notified the Plastic Waste Management bylaws for Delhi and they think they can push the burden of the penalty on us.”

A North Delhi Municipal Corporation official, who also requested anonymity, said, “When NGT ordered the fine on December 3, we sent teams to lift over 50,000 tonnes of plastic and leather waste from factories in Mundka and adjoining villages. The waste was sent to our waste-to-energy plant in Narela-Bawana. This actually comes under the revenue department of Delhi government. We did their job without charging a penny and now they are asking us to pay the fine too,” he added.

A spokesperson for SDMC spokesperson, said, “We have received the letter from the Delhi government but haven’t sent a response.”

North Delhi municipal commissioner Varsha Joshi said, “I haven’t received any letter yet, so can’t comment.”

Although Yaduvanshi did not directly say that he had written to the two bodies, he said, “If the SDMC says that they have received such a letter, it must be authentic.”

Chairman of the Environment Pollution Control Authority’ (EPCA), Bhure Lal, said, “Payment of the fine is a matter between the political and official authorities and only they can decide it.”