India environment court suspends plan to expand coal-based power plant

India’s environment tribunal, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has suspended an environmental clearance issued by the government of the state of Karnataka for the expansion of an existing coal-based power plant in Udupi district. The state government had issued its environmental clearance for the proposed expansion in 2017.

Friday’s decision saw the NGT take cognizance of the adverse findings of a group of experts on the environmental situation in the region. It was observed that the mismanagement of the environment had contaminated the soil, air and both the surface water and groundwater reserves in the power plant’s vicinity.

The New Delhi-based principal bench of the tribunal ordered the operator of the power plant to pay a fine of 50 million Indian rupees to the Central Pollution Control Board as an “interim environmental compensation” within a month. In doing so, the tribunal exercised powers vested in it by Section 20 of the National Green Tribunal Act, which mandates that the tribunal apply the “polluter pays” principle, among other environmental law doctrines.

The bench also ordered a committee comprising senior scientists to assess the environmental damage caused due to the operation of the power plant.