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Airlines To Pay Fine If Their Planes Empty Human Waste While Flying
Green panel tells the DGCA to 'issue directions that aircraft on landing shall be subjected to surprise inspection to see that human waste tanks are not empty'
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The menace of human waste being splattered on houses from airplanes while landing led the National Green Tribunal to slap a fine of Rs 50,000 on the airline whose aircraft empties toilet tanks on air.
The NGT directed aviation regulator DGCA to issue a circular to all airlines, whose planes are involved, to pay Rs 50,000 as environmental compensation.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar passed a slew of directions while disposing of a plea of a retired army officer alleging dumping of human excreta by aircraft over residential areas near the IGI Airport in New Delhi.
Normally, the waste in the aircraft tanks are disposed of by ground handling personnel once the plane lands. However, there are cases where lavatory leaks occur in the air.
The tribunal asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue circular to all ground handling services and airlines to ensure that they do not release waste from human waste tanks while landing or anywhere near the terminals of the IGI Airport.
"DGCA shall also issue directions that aircraft on landing shall be subjected to surprise inspection to see that human waste tanks are not empty. If any aircraft is found to be violating such circular or (their) tanks are found empty on landing, they shall be subjected to environment compensation of Rs 50,000 per default," the bench said.
The direction came on the plea of Lt Gen (Retd) Satwant Singh Dahiya who has sought action against the airlines and levy of hefty fines on them for endangering the health of residents, terming their act as violation of the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'.
While issuing directions, the green panel also said it was "surprised" to note the stand taken by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that on analysing the samples taken from the petitioner's house, it could be ascertained that it was excreta but its source could not known.
"We are surprised to note the stand of CPCB to the extent of coliform and the kind of splashes created on the houses of the petitioner as well as others clearly demonstrate that it was human excreta," the bench said.
It added that the amount collected shall be deposited with CPCB for using it for environment protection and a quarterly report shall also be submitted by DGCA before it.
DGCA was also asked by the tribunal to set up a helpline so that similar complaints can be addressed and the helpline number as well as email address be kept in public domain.
During the hearing, DGCA told the bench it has issued a circular to constitute a committee to investigate the matter.
The NGT had earlier slapped a cost of Rs 5,000 on the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Civil Aviation for their failure to file inspection report on the plea.
It had also directed CPCB to depute a senior environmental engineer to inspect the petitioner's house and check the existence of human excreta on its walls and if excreta was found, samples should be collected for analysis and the report placed before the tribunal.
In his petition, Vasant Enclave resident Dahiya had sought creation of a 24-hour helpline for immediate reporting of such incidents and a monitoring mechanism to check that no aircraft drops "human soil or excreta" while landing.
The Ministry had opposed the argument and said plane toilets stored the waste in special tanks which are normally disposed of by ground crews once the plane lands. However, aviation officials acknowledge that lavatory leaks can occur in the air at times.