Thursday, June 02, 2016

NGT restrains Gujarat authorities from construction at Vadodara riverfront without environmental clearance

Vishwamitri river
By Our Representative
In a major setback to the Gujarat government, wanting to replicate the much-publicised Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati riverfront development in the state’s cultural capital, Vadodara, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered to stop proceeding with any “any construction or development activity within the area of Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project.”
Seeking explanation from the Government of India (Ministry of Environment and Forests) and the Gujarat government (Chief Secretary; Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department; and local Vadodara authorities) within four weeks, the NGT said, on “perusal of allegations” it was established that construction work had begun without Environmental Clearance (EC).
The order came in response to an application by top Gujarat-based environmentalist, Rohit Prajapati, who had sought an interim order to restrain the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), the project proponent, from proceeding with the project on assertion that it has not obtained EC.
Prajapati submitted photographs in his support to show how construction activity is being carried out in the area of Vishwamitri river in the name of Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project, insisting, it is actually “demolishing the river and its tributaries”.
The activities listed in the construction work by Prajapati include “demolition, dredging, digging, filling, levelling of the land.”
Design of proposed Vishwamitri riverfront
  The NGT order, delivered by Dr Justice Jawad Rahim and Dr Ajay A Deshpande, says, “Any construction activity especially in an area which is river and riverbed and also its tributaries is wholly impermissible.”
The order says, the project proponent “is proceeding” with on the assumption that “construction activity will not cause damage”, and that the state government-appointed State Environmental Appraisal Committee (SEAC) “is examining the proposal for grant of EC”.
The fact, it says, is that “no final decision has yet been taken. It is not impugned on record to show that the present construction activity does not require any EC or consent.”
The order underscores, “On perusal of records, it is seen the photographs show that the (project proponent) is proceeding with construction activity in blatant violation of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.”
Also violated are the Notifications issued under the Act, “particularly Notification in 1994/2006”, the order says, adding, the project proponent “has commenced construction activity more than a year ago without obtaining prior EC and he has continued such illegal activities.”
In fact, the order says, the project proponent “applied for EC only after starting construction, which show their conduct of defiance to mandatory law requiring EC”, adding, “In the circumstances, even if the project proponent gets ex-post fact EC, we got to examine whether grant of EC was justified, especially in view clear photographs which show that its construction activity is virtually destroying River VIshwamitri and its tributaries.”

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