The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has formed a Joint Committee to investigate an application that raised concerns about the environmental damage caused by 200 parks and green areas in Bijwasan Village and Bhartal, New Delhi. In December 2022, Vivek Manha, President of RWA, Bijwasan, New Delhi, applied via a letter of petition under sections 14 and 15 of the National Green Court Act 2010 (NGT Act).The application highlighted the problem of around 200 green areas and parks in Bijwasan Village and Bhartal, New Delhi, which are used for social functions like weddings, attracting hundreds of vehicles on a daily basis. As a result, the high volume of traffic causes congestion and air pollution, as vehicles release large amounts of dust into the atmosphere. The applicant further argued that the organizers of these functions are discharging wastewater onto open land and roads, leading to significant water contamination in the area. These activities, he says, violate the Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) Law of 1974 and the Air (Pollution Prevention and Control) Law of 1981, and pose significant health risks to the local population. The organizers of these functions also discharge sewage on open land and roads, causing water pollution in the area, according to the applicant. The Court set up a joint committee consisting of DPCC and the District Magistrate, South West Delhi, to visit the site, collect relevant information and submit a factual report within two months. The matter is posted for consideration on July 24.
NGT stays Rs 72,000 cr Great Nicobar Island project
A special bench of the National Green Tribunal has temporarily put on hold the Union government’s Rs 72,000-crore mega project for ‘holistic development’ of Great Nicobar Island (GNI) situated at the southern end of the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Identifying certain deficiencies, the bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has constituted a high-powered committee to revisit the environment clearance (EC) granted to the project. The committee, which will be led by the secretary of the union environment ministry, has been asked to meet within two weeks and finalise its proceedings within two months. “Till then, further work in pursuance of impugned EC may not proceed except for the work which may not be of irreversible nature,” the bench said. The tribunal said there were some deficiencies pointed out by petitioners that needed to be addressed. For instance, out of 20,668 coral colonies, 16,150 are proposed to be translocated without any mention of a threat to the remaining 4,518 coral colonies. Island Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2019, prohibits the destruction of corals. “Further, data collected for impact assessment is only for one season as against the requirement of three seasons. Also, part of the project is in the CRZ IA area where the port is prohibited. These aspects may call for revisiting the EC by a committee,” the bench said. Petitions were filed before the NGT challenging the ‘hasty clearances’ given to the project. The project plan has four components - Rs 35,000 crore transshipment port at Galathea Bay, a dual-use defence-civilian international airport, a power plant, and a township to be built over 30 years on more than 160 sqkm of land, of which 130 sqkm is pristine forestland. The Union environment ministry has already given its clearance for one of the single largest forest diversions in recent memory. The NGT, however, has refused to interfere with the environmental or forest clearances saying the project has great significance not only for economic development but also for defence and national security. Also, the additional solicitor general of India Aishwarya Bhati during the hearing held on April 3 submitted before the tribunal that the master plan of the project has been revised and claimed that Leatherback turtle nesting grounds in Galathea Bay were excluded. Bhati also agreed that Galathea Bay in Great Nicobar Island, where the port is proposed, is high in biodiversity and has nesting grounds for Leatherback, world’s largest turtle. For this reason, the areas falling in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-1A have been totally excluded in the revised master plan, the ASG said. Now, the big question is if the CRZ-1A areas are excluded can the port be constructed? The question was posed by the NGT bench considering that the entire Galathea Bay was marked as CRZ-1A in the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) which is available on the Andaman and Nicobar administration official page. The final CZMP is not in the public domain and it was not produced by the central government before the NGT. During the hearing, the bench questioned the ASG as to how the union environment ministry had issued clearances even before seeing the revised master plan. “When port construction is prohibited in CRZ-1A areas, how can the clearance be given by the ministry even before ascertaining whether port construction is possible in Galathea Bay or not? You (environment ministry) are rushing through things without seeing the documents,” the bench said. The bench repeatedly asked about the revised plan for which none of the government counsels had any answers. But, in the order, the tribunal refrained from putting environment clearance in abeyance saying: “Every developmental activity is bound to have some adverse impact on the environment but if the impact can be mitigated and advantages to the society are greater, such projects have to be allowed in the larger public interest.” Pankaj Sekhsaria, author and researcher on A&N Islands, has ridiculed the NGT order. “The NGT has failed completely to even understand, leave alone acknowledge the scale of the ecological damage this project will cause,” he said. “The order is less about what the NGT is mandated to look at and reads more like the project proponents' justification for going ahead with the project,” he added.
NGT quashes environmental clearance given to Avulapalli reservoir,
Setting aside the Environmental Clearance granted to Avulapalli Reservoir in Andhra Pradesh by State-Level Environmental Impact Assessment, the National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone) has imposed a Rs 100 Crore penalty on the State's Water Resource Department. The bench of Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, Dr Satyagopal Korlapati said: “It is extremely disturbing to note that a government department, in gross violation of the environmental laws, can go to the extent to implement an Irrigation Project by resorting to falsehood, misrepresentation and cheating the SEIAA.” The Tribunal was hearing the appeal against the Environmental Clearance (EC) issued in September, 2022 by State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority - Andhra Pradesh (SEIAA -AP) in favour of the State of Andhra Pradesh for construction of the Avulapalli Balancing Reservoir. The appellant contended that the impugned EC was issued without application of mind on misrepresentation of facts. The main objection of the appellant was that the EC is obtained only for Avulapalli Balancing Reservoir with the capacity of 2.5 TMC whereas G.O. Rt. 444 dated 26.08.2020 and G.O Rt. 461 dated 02.09.2020 proposed three reservoirs linking Galeru Nagar Sujala Sravanthi and Handri Neeva Sujala Sravathi. The capacity of the reservoir is shown as 2.5 TMC in the project but it was stated before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh that it will increase the capacity from 2.5 TMC to 3.5 TMC, the appellant submitted. It was also argued that the project proponent (PP) has taken the land belonging to the forest department without the impact assessment being done on the forest and eco-sensitive zone. It was also found that “perusal of the said documents submitted by SEIAA – AP reveal that the G.O.461 dated 02.09.2020 by which the project was sanctioned is only an abstract of the said G.O. and contains only details of the financial sanction without any reference to the capacity of the project, proposed new ayacut area, apportionment of the water for drinking water needs, etc.” The Tribunal opined that project proponent has deliberately “furnished false information” before the SEIAA – AP and has claimed in the counter affidavit that the project is only Phase – I and application will be made for EC for Phase – II separately, though the administrative sanction was obtained for 3.5 TMC (Phase I - 2.5 TMC + Phase II – 1 TMC). In light of the above, the Tribunal set aside the EC granted by SEIAA-AP in favour of Avulapalli Balancing Reservoir.