In a key development, on October 29 the Gujarat High Court directed the state government to provide details of the total consumption of coal in Gujarat annually. Notably, the Gujarat HC urged the government to experiment with supplying CNG, LPG and PNG to industries in view of curbing air pollution substantially.
While hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by Advocate Amit Panchal, who is seeking prohibition of coal as fuels in industries, the Gujarat HC sought the state government’s response on why a 2017 notification or any similar notification declaring coal as an approved fuel has not been struck down.
A division bench comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Justice VD Nanavati sought information on the consumption of coal in Gujarat and details of the industries utilising only coal as fuel. In October 2017, a notification of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had specified a list of 15 ‘approved fuels’ in Gujarat, namely, coal, lignite (brown coal), petcoke (petroleum coke), etc.
Gujarat HC takes stock of annual consumption of coal in state
The said notification was then modified in 2019, which in turn imposed conditions to the usage of the approved fuels. In 2019, the notification was amended, barring the usage of petcoke or furnace oil as a fuel in cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodra and Rajkot that could not meet the basic levels of the National Ambient Air Quality standards as prescribed under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, as declared by the Central Pollution Control Board.
“There need not be any debate that the use of coal has a continued adverse effect on the environment and the lives of millions of people. The state government and GPCB have the duty to provide clean air and have the powers under the provisions of the Air Act to mandate the usage of PNG/CNG,” Gujarat HC’s order dated October 29 read.
PIL outlines need to meet permissible standards of pollution in Gujarat
Also, the division bench of the Gujarat HC asked the state government to reply as to why the aforesaid 2017 notification or “any similar notification/order by which it declares coal to be an approved fuel under Section 2(d) of the Air Pollution Act be not struck down.”
Further, the Gujarat HC directed GPCB and the state to furnish information on the total annual consumption of coal in Gujarat and also enumerate the industries using coal as fuel. Petitioner Amit Panchal also highlighted the industries using coal as the only medium of fuel and outlined the urgency to comply with permissible standards of pollution.