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Gujarat's cultural capital sees sharp rise in "destruction" of water bodies, nature: Environmentalists complain

By Our Representative
Gujarat's well-known environmentalists and experts led by Rohit Prajapati have taken strong exception to sudden sharp rise in demolitions, tree felling and clearing of vegetation, dumping of debris, and discharge of sewage, dredging, digging, filling, levelling, construction, etc. along the Vishwamitri river in the state's cultural capital, Vadodara.
Calling these "blatant violation of environmental laws", they have said in a letter to state and Government of India officials, "preconstruction activity (like clearing of vegetation and making an access path for the widening of Kala Ghoda Bridge) have been taking place near and under Kala Ghoda Bridge inside Vishwamitri river".
Then, they says, "Dumping and levelling activities are going between Kala Ghoda bridge and Yavteshwar Mahadev Temple". Thus, there was "illegal dumping activities of debris at Kala Ghoda bridge near Yavteshwar Mahadev Temple on December 24, 2017 at around 10.20 am", they add.
There was also "discharge of illegal untreated sewage discharge near and besides Bhimnath Bridge", removal of "vegetation on both banks of the Bahucharaji Nala and other works and activities such as levelling and filling of the Nala and its environs", and "dumping of debris along the river bank on both sides of the Bhimnath Bridge and Fast Track Court", they say.
In their letter, addressed to environment and forests and urban development officials, they further say that by carrying on these activities, Vadodara authorities are violating the order of the Gujarat High Court Judgement dated August 2, 2002, as also the May 25, 2016 order National Green Tribunal (NGT).
At the same time, the letter draws the attention of the authorities about what it calls, "non-compliance" by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) of the order in August 2016 passed by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Gujarat, following the withdrawal application for the Vadodara River Development Project before the NGT.
Asking authorities to "immediately stop" all activities, including "demolition, tree felling and clearing of vegetation, dumping of debris, discharge of sewage, etc... around the Vishwamitri River and its environs", the letter says, the NGT restrained VMC from "proceeding further with any construction or development activity within the area of Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project" (VRDP)."
Following this, based on the order dated the SEIAA secretary, on August 8, 2016, the VMC told the NGT that it "would maintain status quo and would not carry out any further construction and development enabling activities within the area of VRDP... until and unless prior Environmental Clearance is obtained.”
At the same time, the letter says, VMC activities are in "violation of the High Court order of Gujarat", dated August 2, 2002, which stated that care should be "taken that water bodies are not converted to any other use in the town planning schemes/development plans", adding, the local authorities should "ensure that no debris of buildings is dumped by any person or institution in the existing water bodies”.
Apart from Prajapati, those who have signed the letter include Prof. SR Raval, landscape architect and ecological planner; Neha Sarwate, environmental and urban planner; Dr Ranjitsinh Devkar, zoologist; Dr Deepa Gavali, wetland ecologist; Dr Jitendra Gavali, botanist; Shakti Bhatt, water resources expert; Dr Arjun Singh Mehta, biotechnologist; Dr Jayendra Lakhmapurkar, hydrogeologist; Hitarth Pandya, educationist and writer; and Rutvik Tank, civil engineer and urban planner.

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