Court allows civic body to process tenders worth ₹15,000 crore
A recent order of the Supreme Court has given the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) the green signal to process tenders worth ₹15,000 crore for building sewage treatment plants (STPs). The May 17 order states: “The tender, if awarded, will abide by further orders of this court.”
However, the court has also placed a contradictory condition in the order, which has puzzled the BMC and it is now seeking clarity over the order.
The tender process had been stuck in litigation since October 2017 when the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a notification stipulating the norms for the construction of STPs. It included parameters such as biochemical oxygen demand of effluents and proportion of total suspended solids. However, environmentalist Nitin Deshpande alleged that the notification diluted effluent discharge norms and challenged it before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT went on to stay the MoEF notification.
The BMC had proposed to build seven STPs as part of its Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project (MSDP) and started setting up a plant in Colaba. However, after the NGT order, the BMC had to stop awarding contracts for building the remaining six STPs. Earlier, the MSDP was stuck because the MoEF had delayed in finalising the effluent discharge norms.
‘Cancel separate norms’
On April 30 this year, the NGT ordered that there cannot be separate norms for metros and other cities. The order was passed based on a report by a panel comprising experts from IIT, NEERI and CPCB. The NGT noted that 323 of the 351 rivers in India were polluted and directed the MoEF to issue stricter discharge norms.
The BMC then moved the Supreme Court against the NGT order. An officer from the MSDP Department said, “We brought it to the court’s notice that the same norms cannot apply to us as we are a coastal city. We have created marine outfalls, which means we have created outfalls deep into the sea. Besides, revising norms would mean high cost escalation and further delay. We are relieved.”
The SC order said, “Needless to mention that the MCGM shall follow the parameters laid down by the Expert Committee in its report/recommendations for mega metropolitan cities in processing the tender as also the directions of the MoEF in this regard.” This statement has confounded the BMC. A BMC officer said, “We are a little puzzled because the court has asked us to go ahead with the tenders and at the same time to adhere to the committee, which is exactly what we had opposed. We have sought clarification from the SC.” The next hearing is on July 10.
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