The Gujarat High Court has directed the state pollution control board to ensure that environment audit reports are put to meaningful use to control pollution in the state. A division bench of Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi issued the directives while dismissing a petition of Gujarat Dyestuff Manufacturers Association which sought scraping of the environmental audit for industries manufacturing specified products, last week.

“Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) is directed to take all necessary follow up steps on the basis of (environmental) audit reports to control environmental pollution,” the court said in the order. “GPCB shall also ensure that the data collected through such audit reports does not collect dust in the archives of its office but is put to meaningful use for understanding the environmental impact,” the court added.

The audit scheme was finalised by the High Court in 1996 after it received several petitions on rising pollution. The court had then asked GPCB as well as the state government to protect the natural resources.

The court said the environmental audit is required to make the industry realise the impact of its activity. The petitioner, Gujarat Dyestuff Manufacturers Association, had contended that no useful purpose was being served by filing environmental reports as the GPCB had not put the said data collected to any effective use.

The association also pointed out that the environmental audit scheme was framed when industrial pollution was at its peak, but now most of the polluting industries have been brought under control. The association said its members are mainly small scale industries and they should not be burdened with providing environmental audit every year which involves huge cost.

But, the Court directed GPCB to continue with the environmental audit scheme, given that an agency like National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has recommended that the scheme followed in Gujarat should be replicated across the country.

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September 2021