Green tribunal asks tough questions on Uttarakhand development

Issues show-cause notice to state government, environment ministry; seeks details on development plans, environmental impact studies, preventive measures

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Tuesday 02 July 2013

The 330 MW Shrinagar hydropower project on Alkananda river in Pauri district of Uttarakhand. 70 more such projects are planned on the Ganga and its various tributaries

In the wake of the disaster in Uttarakhand, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has questioned the manner in which indiscriminate developmental activities have been carried out in the ecologically fragile regions of the state. In a show-cause notice issued on July 2, the tribunal has asked the state government and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to place on record the ‘basis on which massive construction has been raised on the hills.’

The tribunal issued the show-cause notice in response to a petition filed by the Legal Aid Committee (LAC), an association of lawyers. “Having being mindful of the damage caused to the ecology and environment of state of Uttarakhand, it is a matter which certainly calls for interference by the specialized tribunal like National Green Tribunal,” said NGT in the show-cause notice.

Tribunal holds state accountable

The tribunal has asked the state that whether permission to carry out such constructions was backed by any data, study or master/zonal development plans declared by the state of Uttarakhand. It also asked whether any study had been carried out by the state in relation to environment and likelihood of damage to environment, as well as loss of forest cover as a result of rampant road and building construction.

NGT has also asked the state to put on record what precautionary measures are being taken to ensure such “ecological and environmental disaster does not re-occur.”  The state and the MoEF have also been asked to place on record the list of the projects which are pending for clearance by the respective agencies and the extent of ecological and environmental impact arising from such projects.

 “There have been several rules and regulations in place to protect ecologically fragile regions in the state, but none of them have been ever considered. For instance, the Uttarakhand River Valley Protection Act calls for regulated development in the river valley as per a master plan, but it has not been followed. We wanted to bring this to the notice of the tribunal,” said environment lawyer Sanjay Upadhyay, in-charge of LCA, the petitioner.

“Since now the court has asked for it, we hope that whatever ecological studies and impact assessment report have been done on the state will be brought to light. This will help build understanding for a sensible rebuilding of the state,” he added.

The notice has also been issued to the National Disaster Management Authority, India Meteorological Department, Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre in Dehradun, Central and the State Pollution Control Boards, Archaeological Survey of India, Border Roads Organisation and the National Highway Authority of India.

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Legal Aid Committee National Green Tribunal Bar Association Vs Union of India Ors

A selection of reports and documents on hydropower development at Uttarakhand

Statement on the Uttarakhand Catastrophe

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