The National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to revisit the guidelines for classifying poultry farms as Green category industry and exempting their regulation under various laws.
The green panel asked the CPCB to issue fresh appropriate orders within three months and if no further order is issued, all the state pollution control boards will require enforcement of consent mechanism under the Air, Water and Environment Protection Acts.
“Till then, even without such consent mechanism, the state pollution control boards may strictly enforce the environmental norms and take appropriate remedial action against any violation of water, air and soil standards statutorily laid down,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said.
The tribunal said sustainable development is a part of the right to life and the state authorities are under obligation to protect the environment as per sustainable development concept.
“Responsibilities of the states to the environment are by Public Trust Doctrine. The Water Act, the Air Act, and the Environment (Protection) Act have been enacted in the wake of international conventions and override all other legislations.
“They create an obligation on the regulatory authorities to enforce the environmental measures. There is no discretion to exempt the mandate of the Water Act for activities having the potential to cause water pollution,” the bench said.
The NGT said the operation of poultry farms has the potential to cause damage to the environment which needs to be regulated.
It noted the submission of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute that poultry production is associated with a variety of environmental pollutants, including oxygen-demanding substance, ammonia, solids, besides it attracts flies, rodents, dogs and other pests that create local nuisances and carries diseases.
“Poor management of manure, litter and wastewater etc. adversely affects the living in the vicinity. Odour is generated for fresh and decomposed waste products such as manure, carcasses, feathers and bedding litter. Furthermore, intensive poultry production may be responsible for greenhouses gasses, acidification and eutrophication,” the tribunal noted.
The NGT was hearing the plea filed by animal activist Gauri Maulekhi seeking quashing of the CPCB’s 2015 guidelines exempting commercial poultry farms from the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and delegating the power to local authorities.
As per the guidelines, farms which have more than one lakh birds are required to take clearance under the section 25 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, while poultries with 5,000 birds have to register themselves with the local authorities.
The plea claimed that poultry farms caused extensive pollution in the surrounding areas as they have thousand of birds in intensive confinement, resulting in huge accumulation of waste.
This huge quantum of waste is seldom disposed scientifically. The poultries impact the ecology and the living of those who surround the farm. Pests which are attracted to the farms make it difficult for the people living in the vicinity, it said.
“To keep thousands of birds alive in such intensive confinement and unclean surroundings it becomes important to administer non-therapeutic antibiotics regularly. The administration of these antibiotics adversely affects the health of those who live around the farms and those who consume the birds or eggs,” the plea said.
It has also sought directions to regulate the use of antibiotics in poultry farms so that these drugs are not administered indiscriminately.