The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has appointed an expert committee to study the harmful effects of antimony on environment after a plea sought a ban on the manufacture, use and import of solar panels containing the heavy metal.
A bench of Justices Jawad Rahim and R S Rathore constituted a three-member committee comprising Vinay A Juvekar from IIT Bombay, and a scientist each from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
“The committee shall state in its report whether antimony was harmful and what are its side effects. Is there any possibility of leaching of the heavy metal and up to what extent any other issue which would be necessary in analysis of ill effects of an timony and the remedial measures thereof,” the bench said.
The tribunal directed the committee to submit the report in six weeks.
“The committee should be provided logistics support by the CPCB and the remuneration shall be one lakh per person,” it said.
The matter will be heard on April 16. The tribunal had earlier issued notices to the MNRE, the Ministry of Commerce and the CPCB and sought their responses.
Solar panels (also known as PV panels) are used to convert sunlight into electricity. The plea, filed by advocate Niharika, had said with increasing use of solar modules and panels under the National Solar Mission, the scientific disposal of antimony posed several problems for the environment
The petition had claimed that antimony was at present being dumped in landfill sites along with the solar panels which were crushed after use.
It had sought a direction to the CPCB to amend the E-Waste Rules, 2016 and bring antimony within scope of Rules 16 pertaining to hazardous substances.
“Solar modules that could produce six giga watts power were imported from China last year, and each GW had four million modules that weighed 52,000 tonnes,” it had said.
The plea said that the CPCB should pass a direction to permit import of only those solar modules that do not contain antimony.
It had also sought random sampling of the solar modules in the collaboration of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to verify the existence of hazardous substances, including antimony.
The petition had asked for a direction to the respondents and the environment monitoring agencies to immediately undertake remedial measures to limit the damage caused to the environment by submitting an action plan, showing how to deal with future disposal of solar panels.