NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday suggested the National Green Tribunal to fix afresh the poultry farm bird limit as thousands of egg and chicken farmers challenged the NGT‘s decision to exempt only farms with less than 5,000 birds from stringent pollution norms.
Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association and National Egg Coordination Committee through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and Arijit Prasad faulted the NGT’s order alleging that the tribunal virtually undertook framing of policy decision by changing the well-researched guideline of Central Pollution Control Board, which specified that farms with more than 25,000 birds were required to take air, water and environmental clearances from the respective pollution control boards.
Appearing before a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, Rohatgi said the NGT, even while arbitrarily reducing the threshold to 5,000 from 25,000 birds per poultry farm, had not given an opportunity to the aggrieved sector to put across its. point of view and passed the order after hearing petitioner Gauri Maulekhi’s counsel.
The bench in its order said the principal reason for filing of the appeals is that the NGT had not heard representatives of poultry farmers before passing the directions on September 16, 2020 and December 10, 2021. “We grant liberty to the petitioners to move the NGT seeking modification of the directions,” the bench said, but clarified that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case.
As per government statistics, poultry sector in India, valued at about Rs 80,000 crore (2015-16), is broadly divided into two sub-sectors – one with a highly organized commercial sector with about 80% of the total market share (say, Rs. 64,000 crore) and the other being unorganized with about 20% of the total market share of Rs. 16,000 Crore.
The CPCB had earlier fixed bird count at 1 lakh for a poultry farm to seek environmental clearances. However, after NGT’s 2017 directions, it revisited the guidelines and in August 2021 fixed the 25,000 bird limit for farms. But, the NGT reduced the limit to 5,000 birds and asked all those who have more birds than the limit, would have to seek environmental clearance by January 1, 2023.
NECC, world’s largest association with membership of more than 35,000 poultry farmers who have played a significant role in betterment of egg industry in India, said, “a poultry farm becomes commercially profitable only after having a bird population of 35000-40000 and the said farmer is then able to solely depend on the farm for his livelihood. The farmers belonging to the small category (5000 to 25000 birds) are actually economically weak farmers with no considerable earnings.”


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