New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has slapped a penalty of Rs 25 crore on Vedanta group firm Hindustan Zinc Ltd for violation of environmental norms in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district.

The green panel said environmental law violations cannot be taken lightly when the violators are entities like the present project proponent (PP) and victims are poor villagers.

The NGT said the victims of damage are unspecified number of persons spread over in more than six panchayats — Bherukhera, Agucha, Parasrampura, Kalyanpura, Kothiya, Balapura and others — in Hurda block.

A case is made out for requiring the PP to provide for compensation for the past violations and bear the cost of remediation, apart from complying with recommendations of the Committee.

Having regard to the violations/damage by the project proponent and overall estimated cost of ecological rehabilitation and restoration and financial capacity of the PP, we require the PP to deposit a sum of Rs 25 crore with the District Magistrate, Bhilwara within three months to meet the cost of remediation measures, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said.

The NGT also directed that a joint committee of the Central Pollution Control Board, state pollution control board and District Magistrate, Bhilwara with the assistance of any other experts may prepare a restoration plan for remediating the soil and quality of ground water in the area, apart from undertaking health improvement programme for the inhabitants and the cattle.

The action taken may be placed on the website of the District Magistrate, Bhilwara and its execution duly monitored.

The remediation works may be got executed by an appropriate agency utilising the amount deposited by the PP and the PP itself will have liberty to get the such work executed of restoration/rehabilitation on its own or through any other agency, if found proper by the joint committee in the circumstances, the bench said .

The NGT said that a public awareness group may be setup jointly by the DM and the PP to list out the issues requiring further action.

The amount deposited will be utilised for executing the plan within one year, associating all stake holders, including the PP and civil society in a suitable manner, subject to overall supervision of the Committee, the bench said.

The joint committee may have a report of status of compliance as on March 31, 2023 filed before the Registrar General of this Tribunal by e-mail.

The tribunal was hearing a batch of pleas alleging violation of environmental norms by Hindustan Zinc Ltd in executing mining lease of lead, zinc and associated minerals in the villages covering nearly an area about 1,200 hectares of mining land.