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Restore biodiversity, remove unauthorised structures: NGT on Vishwamitri riverfront

By Our Representative

Seeking demarcation of the entire flood plain zone of Vishwamitri river, which passes through Gujarat's cultural capital, Vadodara, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), in its order has insisted that not only steps are required for plantation and maintaining the integrity of the river in totality but plans should be undertaken to implement the Vishwamitri River Action Plan by seeking the removal of unauthorised structures.
Environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, who along with other concerned citizens, had filed a plea with NTG about the manner in which the river's ecosystem is being destroyed in name of having an Ahmedabad-type riverfront in Vadodara, told media, "We, the concerned citizens and experts, as a team are willing to work collaboratively with the concerned authorities toward the implementation, in letter and spirit, of the NGT Order of May 25."
The NTG order, among other things, said that the river consists of catchments, floodplains, tributaries, ponds, river-bed and adjoining ravines which, along with the soils and vegetation on both sides, is the river’s natural mechanism to retain the additional water, prevent floods and provide habitat for various species. It is a natural, living organic part of a larger ecological system, it added.
The order observed, "The project in question adversely impacted the environment, particularly the Vishwamitri River wetlands, ravines, inter-connectivity with other water bodies, floodplains, flora and fauna, biodiversity, etc. The River consists of catchments, floodplains, tributaries, ponds, river-bed and adjoining ravines which, along with the soils and vegetation on both sides, is the river’s natural mechanism to retain the additional water, prevent floods and provide habitat for various species."
It said, "Of paramount importance in its ecology is the presence of the highly protected species, the Indian crocodile (Crocodylus palustries- Mugger Crocodile) and turtles. The crocodiles, turtles and other species have been inhabiting and breeding in stretches of the Vishwamitri River for many years. This species is categorized as nationally ‘vulnerable’, subsequent to an assessment following IUCN criteria for threatened species (Molur and Walker 1998) and has the highest legal protection in India."
The order added, the species are "listed in Schedule I to the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972... The crocodile and Turtle have been included in Appendix-I of Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and brought under Schedule-I of The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972."

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