To preserve the environment and to put the brakes on rampant corruption, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has declared as illegal riverbed construction in Maharashtra and directed the State government to amend controversial government resolutions (GR) allowing the State Water Resources Department to permit the same.
According to green activists, two ambiguously worded GRs, one issued in August last year and the other in March this year, allegedly encourage sanction by the State Irrigation Department to allow construction in the no-development zone (NDZ) area within the blueline and embankments of rivers.
The blueline or the flood-line on the map depicts the limit beyond which construction near a river is prohibited to maintain a riverbed.
The first GR, dated August 8, 2014, mentions that as per various city development plans, the Irrigation Department’s regional chief engineer can issue no-objection certificates for constructing roads, gardens and jogging tracks on riverbeds, flood protection walls on river banks, or laying sewerage pipes within the blueline area, claiming that these will neither erode the riverbed cross-sections nor interfere with the natural flow.
The second GR allegedly empowers the department to alter bluelines ‘on demand’ without clearly setting forth the concerned authority.
Acting on a petition filed by Pune-based environmentalist Sarang Yadvadkar, the Tribunal noted that the GRs were “improper” and gave ample scope for illicit construction by ignoring the precautionary principle enumerated in Section 20 of the NGT Act, 2010.
“The ambiguous tone of the GRs allows for rampant corruption on the part of the politico-contractor lobby,” said Mr. Yadvadkar.
The Bench ruled that the blueline could be drawn by the Irrigation Department only on demand or urgent notification by the District Collector of any impending flood-like situation where a river flows above the danger level.
The Tribunal further directed the Irrigation Department to conduct a geo-mapping of the State’s rivers and upload blueline maps on the official websites of the Environment and Irrigation Departments within 12 weeks.