The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a show-cause notice to the Uttarakhand government, Union environment ministry, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) calling for data and information to justify construction and development activity in the hill state.
Unchecked and unplanned construction is seen to have worsened the disaster caused by the June 16-17 cloud bursts that triggered flash floods, wrecking havoc in the state.
The tribunal, a judicial body, acted on a plea filed by a body of lawyers called Legal Aid Committee and went beyond the petition to seek more documents, proofs and evidence from various authorities to justify rapid development in the state.
The tribunal, describing the catastrophe an “ecological and environmental disaster”, asked Central agencies and the state government for proof that “rampant road and building construction” had adhered to master and zonal plans and if a damage assessment has been carried out.
It has also made the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO) party to the case.
Petitioners had asked the environment ministry to place on record the cumulative impact assessment for hydro projects on the Himalayan rivers in Uttarakhand in particular and Himalayan region in general.
They also sought the status of the River Regulation Zone Notification that was first put out as an idea in 2002. The petitioners, through their lawyer Raj Panjwani also asked for state government to furnish details of rules and regulations that are intended to regulate unbridled and unauthorized construction on river bodies.
The petitioners asked the tribunal to get NDMA to show what actions it initiated to deal with disasters relating to rivers in the Himalayan region.
The tribunal, while issuing notices to the union ministry, its agencies and state government, has also asked the latter to present what ecological studies have so far been carried out and the basis for massive construction.
It has asked if permissions to construct were backed by data, study or master/zonal development plans. The tribunal asked respondents to furnish any study “carried out by any of the respondents more particularly State of Uttarakhand in relation to environment and likelihood of damage to environment, loss of forest cover as a result of rampant road and building construction in the state of Uttarakhand”.
The state government was also asked to furnish details of preventive steps it plans in future to avoid or mitigate such disasters.
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