Mayor’s appointment puts PCB in a fix

Kochi Corporation is facing legal and penal proceedings for violation of environment laws

The appointment of Kochi Mayor M. Anilkumar as a member of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) has placed the agency in an awkward position as the civic body is facing legal and penal proceedings initiated by the Board for violation of various environmental laws.

The seventeen-member Board is the highest decision-making body and consists of members representing the local bodies, government, industry, government companies or corporations, and commercial, agricultural and fisheries sectors. Mr. Anilkumar was among the five members representing local bodies nominated by the government following the local body elections held in December.

The other members include Kanathil Jameela, president of Kozhikode district panchayat; M. Krishnadas, chairman of Guruvayoor municipality; B.P. Murali, president of Kilimanoor block panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram; and B. Shamsudheen, president of Padiyoor-Kalyad grama panchayat in Kannur. The Department of Environment had issued an order ratifying the inclusion of the representatives of the local bodies on February 18.

The Board had asked the Kochi Corporation to pay ₹14.92 crore as environment compensation in January for its failure to comply with the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016. The notice was served based on a directive by the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after it had pulled up the government and the Board for its failure to take coercive action under the SWM Rules, 2016 against those responsible for the unscientific dumping of waste at the Brahmapuram yard of the Corporation. The civic body had received a stay from the Kerala High Court against the payment of the environment compensation slapped as per the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.

Even though the Chairman of the Board has the powers to slap environment compensation on erring local bodies, the decisions have to get the Board’s ratification. Ajit Haridas, former chairman, had resigned in February last after the board members unanimously passed a no-confidence motion against him. Mr. Haridas had invited the wrath of the members after he issued a show-cause notice to the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation charging an environmental compensation of ₹14 crore for its failure to comply with the solid waste management rules.

Mr. Anilkumar has said that he will play a positive role in ensuring the implementation of waste management rules as a member of the Board. “This will make me more responsible and strengthen the ongoing efforts of the council to ensure scientific waste management,” he said.

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