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national green tribunal(ngt).. Tribune photo

NGT Order on Tyre Pyrolysis Plants- A Blessing in Disguise for the Environment

India generates over two million metric tonnes of waste tyres every year. Used tyres are often dumped illegally, clogging drains and causing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They also pose serious fire risks if set ablaze. With growing vehicular traffic, the stockpiling of waste tyres had become a huge environmental challenge.

To address this issue, several companies started setting up tyre pyrolysis plants across India to scientifically recycle waste tyres. Tyre pyrolysis involves heating waste tyres to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to break them down into valuable pyrolysis oil, carbon black and steel wire fractions. While this provided an effective solution to tyre waste disposal, some tyre pyrolysis plants allegedly flouted environmental norms.

In 2018, observing the serious environmental issues arising from illegal and unscientific disposal and processing of waste tyres, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) took suo motu cognizance of the matter. The NGT constituted an independent committee to inspect various tyre pyrolysis plants across India and submit a report on their compliance with environmental regulations.

Tyre Pyrolysis

The committee inspected 44 tyre pyrolysis plants across 13 states and submitted a damning report to the NGT. It was found that most tyre pyrolysis plants were operating without obtaining proper statutory clearances such as Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO) from State Pollution Control Boards. Many did not have effective emission control systems or arrangements for disposal of solid and hazardous wastes generated in the pyrolysis process. Some plants were also found illegally discharging untreated effluents.

Based on the committee report, the NGT issued an important order on tyre pyrolysis plants in December 2018. It directed all tyre pyrolysis plants operating without valid consents to immediately stop operations. Plants were given three months’ time to obtain necessary clearances and install proper pollution control equipment as per guidelines of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The NGT also levied environmental compensation ranging from Rs. 1-10 lakh on non-compliant plants.

The tyre pyrolysis industry strongly opposed the NGT order, citing huge capital investments and job losses. However, green activists contended that illegal operations were seriously polluting land, water and air in violation of environmental laws. With the issue coming under intense public scrutiny, most tyre pyrolysis companies realized the need to follow due process and adopt cleaner technologies.

One year after the NGT order, the committee submitted a follow-up compliance report in 2019. It stated that only seven out of the 44 plants inspected had obtained all necessary consents and installed adequate pollution control systems. Others had initiated the process but not fully complied yet. The committee recommended strict enforcement of the NGT order to curb illegal operations threatening public health and the environment.

Taking strict cognizance, the NGT in January 2020 directed all non-compliant tyre pyrolysis plants in 13 states to immediately stop operations until due compliance. The Tribunal observed that “while industry had a right to carry business, it could not be permitted to cause pollution in violation of laws.” For repeat violators, the penalty was increased to Rs. 25 lakh. The NGT also warned of criminal prosecution and sealing of premises in case of non-compliance.

The stern NGT order on tyre pyrolysis plants brought much-needed regulatory oversight over the fledgling sector. It made compliance with environmental norms a prerequisite for operations rather than an afterthought. Polluting plants had to remedy deficiencies or face regulatory crackdown. Stern actions like heavy penalties and closure threats provided the necessary impetus for the tyre pyrolysis industry to self-regulate and adopt cleaner processes. It also showed that breaking environmental laws would not be condoned merely due to exemptions or investments made.

While the tyre pyrolysis industry faced short-term disruptions, the NGT order brought long-term systemic benefits. It compelled companies to seek statutory clearances, install emission control equipment and operate in a scientifically safe and responsible manner. Today, most organised tyre pyrolysis plants functioning across major cities are complying with regulations. They are not only providing an effective solution for tyre waste but also implementing proper solid and liquid waste management systems. Their example is encouraging others to adopt sustainable practices.

In conclusion, the NGT played a vital role in streamlining the tyre pyrolysis sector while upholding environmental protection principles enshrined in law. The timely regulatory intervention provided a win-win solution – it ensured penal action against polluters but also gave time-bound compliance deadlines to deserving businesses. With continued oversight and compliance, tyre pyrolysis plants are poised to effectively address the environmental challenge of used tyres in India in a responsible manner. While short term disruptions were inevitable, the NGT order on tyre pyrolysis plants has brought long term benefits to the environment and public health.

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