The Supreme Court has stayed a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order imposing an environmental compensation of over ₹ 15 crore on Moon Beverages, a key bottler for American beverage maker Coca-Cola in north India.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, B R Gavai, and A S Bopanna issued notice on the plea filed by Moon Beverages to a Ghaziabad resident on whose petition the NGT had passed the order.
“There shall be a stay of operation of the impugned judgement and order dated February 25, 2022, passed by the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New in Original Application No.69 of 2020,” the bench said.
The top court was hearing an appeal filed by Moon Beverages Ltd challenging NGT’s order imposing an environmental compensation of ₹ 1.85 crore on Moon Beverages Ltd located at Greater Noida, ₹ 13.24 crore on Moon Beverage Ltd’s Sahibabad unit, and ₹ 9.71 crore on Varun Beverages Ltd’s Greater Noida unit.
The NGT had also constituted a joint committee comprising officials from the Environment Ministry, Ministry of Jal Shakti, CGWA, UPGWD, and District Magistrates of the districts concerned.
The green panel had said the committee shall prepare a restoration plan within two months, execute the same in the next six months and submit a compliance report to it.
“We also constitute a joint Committee of CPCB, CGWA, UPGWD, and UPPCB to conduct the survey in UP and prepare data of various categories drawing groundwater for commercial purposes, study impact assessment, suggest ways and modes to reduce groundwater extraction in OCS areas, and how groundwater level can be improved, it had said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Ghaziabad-resident Sushil Bhatt raising the issue of extraction of groundwater in an indiscreet and arbitrary manner, even in areas where the availability of groundwater is an extreme scarcity.
The plea had alleged that the units mentioned above have not obtained any ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Central Ground Water Authority for extraction of groundwater.
The NGT had said the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to regulate and control groundwater extraction in the country are only a new cover provided to the old scheme with minor variations, alterations, and modifications, the National Green Tribunal has said.
“We do not find much improvement in Guidelines 2020. Virtually, it is only a new cover provided to the old scheme with minor variations, alterations, and modifications, here and there, but having no substantial consequences to the root cause and central issue, i.e. protection and preservation of groundwater, prevention of, not only further depletion but a serious and effective attempt for recharge and restoration, the green panel had said.
The green panel had said unfortunately the ministry concerned and the Central Ground Water Authority have acted in haste and have published Guidelines 2020 wherein most of the infirmities, irregularities, and failures, pointed out on the part of CGWA, in earlier guidelines, as such, are present.