The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has denied exemption to Merchem Limited from contributing its share of 1.41 crore for the remediation of the contaminated Kuzhikandam Thodu, a 1.5-km-long narrow creek in Eloor-Edayar area.
This was conveyed to the National Green Tribunal by KSPCB in an affidavit filed before it on October 3 regarding the remediation project.
The new management of the company, which had remained closed for four years, had informed KSPCB that it was not liable to pay the amount citing an order of the National Company Law Tribunal to the effect that all government claims like taxes, liabilities, and penalties pertaining to the period before the takeover of the new management stand extinguished.
However, KSPCB shot down that claim and informed the company that no such exemption could be granted on remittance of cost on environment degradation as per the polluter pays principle. Besides, direction had also been issued to Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) to remit the remaining 2.35 crore it owed towards the remediation project.
At a meeting convened by the Chief Minister in 2017, it was decided that the cost of the remediation project would be shared by the four polluters FACT, HIL, Indian Rare Earths (IRE) and Merchem Ltd. Accordingly, it was decided that HIL and Merchem shall contribute 3.59 crore and 1.41 crore respectively towards remediation cost for soil and sediments, and FACT and IRE 1.25 crore each for remediation of surface water and groundwater.
With the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change discontinuing the National Clean Energy Fund and the Central fund for the 26 crore-remediation project, the KSPCB is finding it hard to mobilise adequate resources for the execution of the project, forcing it to opt a phased execution. Originally, the Union government was to provide 40% of the total cost and the rest was to be borne by the State. However, with the Ministry recusing from the project, the entire project outlay has to be mobilised by the State government now, said environmental activist and lawyer Ashkar Khader who appeared for one of the applicants before NGT.
In the wake of the discontinuation of the fund, the Detailed Project Report prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board for the remediation of the waterbody was handed over to the State government earlier this year.
The State government and KSPCB have already contributed 4.02 crore each towards meeting the cost of remediation of soil and sediments, which was pegged at 8.05 crore.
KSPCBs affidavit is silent about the mobilisation of the remaining 12 crore of the project cost without which the project may have to be dropped half way, which will leave the entire project redundant, Mr. Khader said.