National Green Tribunal stays covering of drains in South Delhi

Orders setting up of an expert panel to deliberate whether drains should be covered or not

By Soma Basu
Published: Wednesday 18 December 2013

The National Green Tribunal has imposed a stay on covering of drains in South Delhi, particularly the Kushak nallah/Satpula drain, right from Mehrauli  up to Sarain Kale Khan. The stay order followed  South Delhi Municipal Corporation's (SDMC's) admission before the tribunal that it had not carried out any environmental assessment studies before starting the work on lining and covering of drains.

The Kushak nallah and Satpula drain were two major river streams in south Delhi and central Delhi that join and flow into the Yamuna through the Barapullah drain. The Satpula drain now carries sewage and filth of the colonies alongside. Earlier plan of turning the drainage network into an eco-corridor with a waterway and landscaped walkways on either side has not seen the light of day.     

In view of SDMC's submission, the bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar stayed the drainage work by any agency till SDMC has submitted its report. “It will be unfair to spend public money on the drains of Delhi as it may have to be ultimately altered and varied as per the technical report submitted by the IIT-Delhi,” said the bench.

IIT expert's help sought

The tribunal also ordered that a committee should be set up to suggest the way forward in the matter to the court and also requested A K Gosain, professor of IIT-Delhi, in-charge of an assignment to suggest a drainage master plan for Delhi, to be part of it.

During the last hearing of the case, the tribunal had asked SDMC whether it had conducted any environmental study before covering the storm water drains.

NGT ordered SDMC, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Public Works Department and Gosain to hold a meeting under the chair of principal secretaries of environment and irrigation & flood control. “In this meeting, it shall be fully deliberated and suggested whether it will be appropriate to provide lining and coverage to the drains in Delhi, particularly the drain in issue in the present application,” the bench said.

It also directed the authorities to ensure that the meeting is held within 10 days and a report is placed before the tribunal by the next date of hearing, January 29, 2014.

The tribunal also directed that if the panel finds that lining and covering of storm water drains in Delhi is appropriate, it should state whether the work undertaken by the project proponent or DDA or any other public authority is technically feasible and sound and non-injurious to the public health and environment.

It (the panel) shall also state as to which is the most appropriate point where the sewage treatment plant (STP) should be set up before the sewage and other effluents, including the rain water collected in these drains, is permitted to join the Yamuna. “We make it clear that the point of establishment of such an STP should be one after which there is no possibility of directly or indirectly putting in sewage, effluent or waste/storm water into the drain. This area could not be preferably closer to Sarai Kale Khan but to the riverbank of Yamuna,” it said.

The tribunal's order came on a plea by a retired Indian Forest Service officer Manoj Mishra and Madhu Bhaduri, a former diplomat, who have opposed covering of storm drains.

Order of the National Green Tribunal on covering of open drains, Delhi, 28/10/2013

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