Questions delay in ban on import of petcoke

“Let’s be clear about something, the people of this country are more important for us than anything,” the Supreme Court lashed out at the Union Ministry of Environment on Monday.

The Supreme Court’s Green Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta made this clear to the government while hearing the issue of ban on import of petcoke — a toxic fuel used in hazardous industries.

“What is more important for you? Saving lives of people or industry?” Justice Lokur asked the government, represented by Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni in court.

When Mr. Nadkarni said “lives,” Justice Lokur asked then why is there a “delay” in imposing a ban.

“Newspaper reports said 60,000 people died of pollution last year. People are dying in the city. There is huge amount of pollution. People are not supposed to breathe anymore or what?” Justice Lokur asked.

Amicus curiae informed the Supreme Court that the Environment Ministry is “not bothered about the environment.”

“When the Ministry of Petroleum is saying ‘please stop import of petcoke’, the Environment Ministry is not concerned. This report filed by the Ministry of Environment is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ report. They are employing delay tactics,” the amicus curiae submitted.

Nationwide ban

The court has been urging the government since December 2017 to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil to power up industries in a bid to fight pollution.

The court had by then, in October last year, already ordered a ban on the industrial use of petcoke and furnace oil in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

The ban on use came after an EPCA Report, including the ban on sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and petcoke in the NCR. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi.

Pursuant to the Supreme Court ban, both the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board had brought into “immediate effect a prohibition on the use of petcoke and furnace oil by any industry, operation or processes within the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan until further orders.”

The court had even highlighted how petcoke is being imported from countries like the United States and China, which have already stopped using them after due consideration of its harmful effects on human beings and environment.

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