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NGT bars construction on Ganga banks in Uttarakhand

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“No activity without prior approval from the tribunal”

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday virtually barred construction of buildings 200 metres along the banks of the Ganga in Uttarakhand till further orders to protect pollutants from being discharged into the river.

“We direct that no corporation, authority or panchayat shall grant permission for construction of building, houses, hotels or any structures within 200 metres of shore of river Ganga at the highest flood line without prior approval from the tribunal,” a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.

The panel’s direction came on a petition filed by advocate M. C. Mehta who has filed the petition for cleaning of Ganga and suggested that in Western countries rivers are protected from pollution by creating a buffer zone on the banks where no construction is allowed.

During the hearing, Mr Mehta said that National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) could purchase land on the banks of river like National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) does to build roads.

He contended that rapid unregulated constructions were being carried out by simply taking clearances from village panchayats, which are not expert bodies.

Mr Mehta said that due to unregulated constructions on the banks of river, pollutants were discharged in the river and the hills have become vulnerable to landslides and earthquake.

The Bench sought a report by Friday from Ministry of Water Resources, prepared by seven IITs on the shortcoming of Ganga Action Plan (GAP)—1 and Plan—2.

The tribunal had earlier said that evolving a 500 meter buffer zone on the banks of river Ganga like in Western countries could be okay in plain areas but had asked whether it could be feasible in the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand.

It was said that during GAP—1, a total of Rs 74.8 crore was spent on cleaning the river, while in GAP—2, Rs 153.73 crore was spent for cleaning from Gaumukh to Haridwar.

Counsel for Uttarakhand Pey Jal Nigam said all the schemes and plans under the GAP—2 project were successfully completed and implemented.

The Bench then observed that even if the projects were completed as claimed, the situation of river Ganga has gone from bad to worse.

“The statement that all the schemes and plans under GAP—2 project were implemented sounds like a joke,” the panel said.

The green panel was also informed by the Centre that around Rs 6,855 crore was spent together by the Centre and states for cleaning Ganga in 30 years from 1985 to March 31 this year.

The Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board told the Bench that there are 413 industries in Sitkul at Haridwar and among them around 375 factories were connected to Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and the rest had their own treatment plants and septic tanks.

The NGT had on October 29 voiced concern over the execution of Clean Ganga project wondering why any deficiency should be there when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described it as a paramount national project.

It said the time has come for the tribunal to issue appropriate directions in connection with cleaning of the river, environment and public health.

The tribunal had decided to deal with cleaning of the Ganga in phases and a decision was taken to divide the 2,500 km river in four phases. The four phases are Gaumukh to Kanpur, Kanpur to border of Uttar Pradesh, Mukama Ghat in Bihar till Jharkhand border and from this border to the Bay of Bengal.

The Bench had further divided the first phase into two segments from Gaumukh to Haridwar and from Haridwar to Kanpur for effective implementation of its orders and direction. - PTI



The panel’s direction came on a petition which suggested that in Western countries rivers are protected from pollution by creating a buffer zone, where no construction is allowed



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Printable version | Nov 22, 2019 9:09:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ngt-bars-construction-on-ganga-banks-in-uttarakhand/article7848273.ece

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