NGT tells M.P. govt. to stop motorised boats, cruise in wetlands

The green court’s order came on a plea complaining about the damage to Bhoj wetland

September 12, 2023 09:34 pm | Updated September 13, 2023 08:15 pm IST - New Delhi

The Upper Lake of the Bhoj wetland in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.

The Upper Lake of the Bhoj wetland in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday pulled up the Madhya Pradesh government over the “very drastic” damage to water bodies and ordered it to stop the operation of cruise vessels as well as other motor-propelled boats in the Bhoj wetland.

The order by the green court’s Central Zone Bench came on an application filed last year by a Bhopal resident, Subhash C. Pandey, who complained about the damage to the wetland, which comprises the Upper Lake and Lower Lake.

“Running of cruise ships/boats in various water bodies of Madhya Pradesh, including Bhoj wetland, is illegal and cannot be allowed to continue... Authorities are directed to stop operation of cruise and other motor-propelled boats in Bhoj wetland being [a] Ramsar site and other wetlands,” the order read.

Also known as Bhopal Lake, the Bhoj wetland is a designated Ramsar site, making it a wetland of international importance according to the Convention of Wetlands signed in 1971.

The NGT order observed that it is “really reprehensible” that the M.P. government itself is launching cruise boats and cruise restaurants in the waters of river Narmada.

“Without any statutory permission, clearance, consent or no-objection certificate from the competent authorities, the BSCDCL (Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited) and MPTB (Madhya Pradesh Tourist Board) started construction activities within the prohibited area of Upper Lake (of Bhopal Lake) and even trees were cut illegally. Operation of cruise ship/boat also started without statutory permissions,” read the order.

The green court added that only operation of boats fitted with four-stroke outboard engines, as done in more than three dozen foreign countries, may be carried out in lakes or water bodies not designated as wetlands, subject to compliance of environmental laws.

“The MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) are directed to formulate a standard operating procedure for motorised boats in water bodies/lakes (not designated as wetlands), if the motors are fitted with four stroke outboard engines or operated by green fuel and do not cause any damage to water and air ecology and environment,” it added.

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