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NGT slaps ₹2 crore fine on company for changing course of a natural water channel in Odisha

Representational Image.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Eastern Zone, has slapped a fine of ₹2 crore on the Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) for changing the natural course of Kurbadahali Nalla (water channel) in Odisha’s Angul district.

The JSPL, which has a steel project in Angul district, is accused of filling up the original Kurdabahali Nalla with earth and constructing its industrial complex thereon at a time when it had not received sanction from the Odisha Government for diversion of the Kurdabahali Nalla through an alternative diversion into the Parang Minor Irrigation Project.

Alekha Chandra Tripathy, a resident of Cuttack, had filed a complaint that the JSPL had unauthorisedly usurped the Nandira River in Angul in connivance with the State authorities and filled it up with earth thereby completely obliterating the river.

“It had also constructed its industry over the said land by building an integrated steel plant with a captive power plant at Sanakerjang in Sankerjang Jungle under Nisha Police Station. It is stated that no prior permission has been sought by the company from the authorities concerned before filling up the Nandira River,” Mr. Triathy alleged.

Hearing argument and counter arguments, the NGT said the determinative facts which emerged from the pleadings of the parties and the documents on record undisputedly establish that there had been a diversion of a water channel by the JSPL over an area passing through its area.

“However, this water channel, even from the map, is shown to be the Kurdabahali Nalla and not the Nandira River. The Nandira River is shown outside the boundary of the JSPL and has its origin in the Parang Minor Irrigation Project. The Kurdabahali Nalla, on the other hand, is shown entering the premises of the JSPL and exiting therefrom to flow into the Parang Minor Irrigation Project,” the tribunal observed in its judgment.

“The company had requested the Odisha Government for permission to divert the nalla since it was causing flooding during the rainy season within the plant premises and also affecting the local villagers residing within the villages covered by the flow of this nalla. The proposal in this regard was initiated by the JSPL and the matter was pending before State Government and sanction was only granted in 2017 with certain conditions,” the judgment says.

Sankar Prasad Pani, counsel for the complainant, however, submitted that the fact that the nalla had been ‘dismembered beyond repair’ was confirmed and, therefore, the environmental degradation emanating therefrom was also confirmed.

“We direct that out of the amount of ₹2 crore, ₹1.5 crore would be deposited with the State’s Forest Department and ₹50,00,000 would be deposited with the Odisha State Pollution Control Board [OSPCB],” the NGT ordered saying the forest department would utilise the amount for increasing the green cover in the area along the banks of the nalla and in available vacant areas.

Besides, the OSPCB would be responsible for continuous monitoring of the water quality of the nalla as well as in the Parang Minor Irrigation Project, it said.

Taking strong view on blocking of Kurdabahali Nalla, the tribunal directed the State Government to take strong action against officials responsible for diversion of natural nalla in six months.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 8:08:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ngt-slaps-2-crore-fine-on-company-for-changing-course-of-a-natural-water-channel-in-odisha/article37733931.ece

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