Green Court Tells Flights to Stop Dumping Human Waste Mid-Air

The National Green Tribunal has asked the country’s aviation safety regulator to conduct surprise checks on commercial flights

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The National Green Tribunal, a court that handles environmental disputes, has asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the country’s aviation safety regulator, to ensure that human excreta is not dumped indiscriminately. They have also ordered the DGCA to conduct surprise checks on aircrafts to see if the human waste tanks are full or not.

The ruling came from a plea from New Delhi resident Satwant Singh Dahiya. He had filed a case in October this year saying houses surrounding the airport had been damaged by blue ice (a mix of human excreta and disinfectants). The retired army-man had sought criminal proceedings against commercial airlines and the imposition of heavy fines for endangering the health of residents. He labelled the indiscriminate dumping of human waste as violation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

The National Green Tribunal had the directed Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to analyse whether the substance that was splattered on the walls of Dahiya’s house was human excreta or not.

The advocate appearing from the Civil Aviation Ministry argued that ground crew dispose of the waste when the plane lands.

According to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), planes cannot dump waste mid-flight since the valve is located on the exterior of the plane that can only be operated by ground crew.

Blue ice is frozen human waste mixed with a blue-coloured liquid disinfectant that deodorises and breaks down the waste. This mixture freezes at high altitudes. Airlines are not supposed to dump it mid-flight although leaks can occur. Blue ice can also cause injuries to those on the ground below.

Most modern planes have vacuum toilets that vacuum waste using very little water into a  200-gallon holding tank. This waste is then removed by ground crew after a plane has landed.

In December 2015, a 60-year-old woman in Aamkhoh suffered a shoulder injury from a football-size chunk of blue ice that tore through the roof in her house in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Times of India, witnesses had said she may have been killed had it not gone through the roof before impacting her. Experts say this may have been the first documented case of a human being injured due to blue ice. They added that the incident will be termed an aircraft accident and the victim will be entitled to compensation under the Aircraft (Investigation of Accidents and Incidents) Rules, 2012.

Bimal Kumar Srivastava, a Delhi-based aviation consultant, read about it from a Hindi newspaper and reported the incident to director general of civil aviation and the director general of the India Meteorological Department. He has asked the government to identify blue ice leaks through radar.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority reports about 25 blue ice cases from 2.5 million flights in a year. Between 1979 and 2003, around 27 cases of blue ice falling from the sky was reported to the FAA.