The National Green Tribunal has initiated an inquiry by an expert committee to probe into the frequent fly-ash barge incidents in the Hooghly river or in the Sunderbans involving Bangladesh-registered vessels.
The NGT held the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and owners of the capsised barges responsible for this damage. It held them liable to pay for the damages caused under Section 15 of the NGT Act, 2010.
Also, it stated that the movement of fly-ash and other harmful substances through the Sunderbans will be restricted. The restrictions imposed will be valid till the time, a biodiversity impact assessment is conducted by the National Biodiversity Board. It has also asked for an alternative route through the Bay of Bengal.
IWAI, the state pollution control board and the forest department have been jointly tasked for coming up with a monitoring mechanism to check the safety standards for barges carrying fly-ash. It will also include fixing an age limit for vessels allowed to enter Indian waters.
Most of the barges being used to transport fly-ash were condemned vessels and needed to be scrapped. Many of them are in use so that owners could claim insurance once they capsized, The Times Of India reported.
The dumping of fly-ash caused contamination of the river and affected the fish population in the area. It has adversely impacted the lives of traditional fisherfolk.
The NGT order called for a time-bound action plan to remove all the fly-ash that has been deposited in the Hooghly river network. The expert committee which will initiate the inquiry comprises representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board, state pollution control board, PCCF Wildlife, and South 24 Parganas district magistrate. After conducting the inquiry, it will file its report within two months.