‘Officials must clarify guidelines’
The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed authorities to provide reasons and consider objections raised by the public while granting No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to set up fuel outlets in residential areas.
The bench’s directions came on three separate applications relating to the setting up of fuel pumps in residential areas in Chennai, Tiruchirapalli and Kanniyakumari. The bench said in some cases, residential areas had not been classified by zoning regulations, and certain areas were kept as non-planning areas.
“There is no clarity in the guidelines given in such cases or what should be the distance criteria to be adopted for the purpose of establishing a new fuel retail outlet, and this is likely being exploited by the oil marketing companies (OMLs). This will affect the very purpose of providing siting criteria for the establishment of fuel outlets,” the bench said.
Hence, it is necessary to direct the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to revisit the issue and come up with some clarification, in the form a notification, as to what must be the distance criteria adopted in cases where no residential areas are classified or where there are non-planning areas under the local laws, the bench said.
The bench also asked whether any minimum distance criteria would have to be provided taking in areas classified as commercial zone or mixed zone, taking into account the environmental impact of establishing the outlets. Further, it directed the CPCB to revisit the siting criteria and issue a notification to make it enforceable to stakeholders and statutory authorities.
The bench restrained Indian Oil Corporation and its franchisee from operating a fuel outlet in Ammamandapam in Tiruchirapalli as it was constructed in violation of guidelines issued by the CPCB and imposed an environmental compensation of ₹10 lakh on the company. The bench also directed Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd or its franchisee to not proceed with the establishment of a retail outlet in West Tambaram. If the outlet had started operations, the bench directed it to be shut till further orders.
In the case related to the fuel outlet at Kollencode Village, Kanniyakumari, the bench said it did not restrain the outlet from functioning as it was not classified as a residential area or commercial area and the NOC was based on the existing siting criteria. However, additional safety measures, if required, were directed to be provided.