The National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone, has directed the Odisha government not to go ahead with ‘illegal’ construction in and around Tampara Lake, a designated Ramasar site and one of the largest picturesque freshwater lakes of the State.
The NGT has issued the order after hearing a petition filed by Wildlife Society of Orissa, an environmental pressure group, which alleged that the ongoing large-scale permanent construction work in Tampara Lake was illegal.
It said the construction within the waterbody and its zone of influence were taken up without obtaining requisite permissions. The WSO had brought to its notice about non-implementation of wetland rules and dysfunctional status of grievance committee and State wetland authority to the extent that no meeting had been convened except once in the last six years.
Rich in fauna
Spread across 337.86 ha with a length of 5.8 km and a width of 670 metres in Ganjam district, Tampara Lake supports at least 60 species of birds, 46 species of fishes, at least 48 species of phytoplanktons, and more than seven species of terrestrial plants and macrophytes. There is a patch of forest with width of 2 km that separates Bay of Bengal from the lake.
As per submissions made by WSO, the wetland is an important habitat for vulnerable species such as Cyprinus carpio, common pochard (Aythya ferina), and river tern (Sterna aurantia). Tampara is already placed in the Wetland Atlas prepared by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in 2010.
Shankar Prasad Pani, the counsel for WSO said, “All Ramsar sites are protected under Wetland Conservation Rules 2017. The boundaries of the Ramsar Site (Tampara) correspond to the peak inundation area and the fringe hydrophytic vegetation bordering several parts of the shoreline. It is a violation of wetland conservation rules on part of the State government for coming up with concrete structure along the lake.”
It was alleged that water sport activity includes surfing, kayaking and scuba diving are in the offing in Tampara as part of efforts to make it an ecotourism hub. The permanent construction includes restaurant, hotel, Tampara resorts and cottages and concrete structures. They have been constructed with in water area and 50 metres of the Tampara Lake.
According to petitioner, the Berhampur Development Authority (BeDA) had finalised additional infrastructure projects for the tourist destination at a cost of ₹8 crore.
Hearing the case, NGT judicial member Amit Sthalekar and expert member Arun Kumar Verma had directed to constitute a committee comprising a senior scientist of MoEF&CC, senior scientist of Central Pollution Control Board, District Collector, Ganjam, or his nominee and Secretary of State Wetland Authority, Odisha, or his nominee. The committee has been asked to come up with a report within four weeks. It has fixed the next date of hearing on September 13.