New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has issued directions to conduct a specific study of the hill station of Mussoorie and formed a nine-member committee to suggest remedial measures for preventing environmental damage. The tribunal heard a matter where it had initiated suo motu proceedings in view of a media report that the recent Joshimath disaster was a warning for Mussoorie where unplanned constructions continued.
A bench comprising Chairperson Justice AK Goel said a holistic study of the carrying capacity of eco-sensitive areas in the Himalayan regions was imperative for protecting the environment. The bench, comprising Judicial Member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Expert Members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad, said, “Without undermining the need for study in all eco-sensitive areas… we direct specific study for Mussoorie…” “Such study may cover as to how much constructions can be allowed and with what safeguards, what safeguards be used for existing buildings and all other relevant and associated aspects including vehicular traffic, sanitation management, maintaining ecological integrity in terms of soil stability and flora/fauna,” the bench said.
The bench also formed a nine-member joint committee headed by the Uttarakhand chief secretary. Other committee members include the Central Pollution Control Board, ACS Environment, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Govind Ballabh Pant National Institute of Himalaya and Environment, National Institute of Hydrology, Space Application Centre, and National Institute of Rock Mechanics, the bench said.
The tribunal has initiated suo motu proceedings in view of the media report on recently the Joshimath disaster.
The bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice AK Goel said, “A holistic study of the carrying capacity of eco-sensitive areas in Himalayan regions was imperative for the protection of the environment.”
The bench noted that there is a reported sinking of the earth’s surface due to displacement of the sub-surface face material. This is on account of excessive unplanned constructions beyond carrying capacity.
This is also a warning for Mussoorie where unplanned constructions have taken place and are still taking place, the bench noted.
The bench said, “In the above background, the study of carrying capacity of eco-sensitive areas in Himalayan regions in a holistic manner appears to be imperative for the protection of the environment.
The bench also said, “Without undermining the need for study in all eco-sensitive areas as already directed, we direct specific study for Mussoorie in the light of apprehensions expressed in an above media report.
“Such study may cover as to how much constructions can be allowed and with what safeguards, what safeguards be used for existing buildings and all other relevant and associated aspects including vehicular traffic, sanitation management, maintaining ecological integrity in terms of soil stability and flora/fauna,” the bench directed.
The tribunal has formed a nine-member committee to be headed by Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand.
Other members will be Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Dehradun, Govind Ballabh
Pant National Institute of Himalaya and Environment, National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), Roorkee, Prof. J.S Rawat, Kumaon University, Almora, Space Application Centre, Ahmadabad National Institute of Rock Mechanics, Bangalore, CPCB and ACS Environment.
The tribunal said that Uttarakhand will act as the nodal agency for coordination and compliance.
The tribunal said that the committee may suggest remedial measures to prevent environmental damage in the light of carrying capacity, hydro-geology studies, geo-morphological studies, and other allied and incidental issues.
“The Committee will be at liberty to take assistance from any other expert/institution. The Committee may meet within two weeks and complete its studies within two months. It may furnish a report by April 30, the bench directed.
The Committee will be free to interact with the stakeholders including the inhabitants/members of civil societies. The Committee may also consider the concerns in the media report. It will be open to the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand to take preventive and remedial measures found necessary in the light of the media report otherwise, the bench said.
The tribunal also noted that Mussoorie’s carrying capacity was studied by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in 2001 which suggested that no further constructions were viable.
However, Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA) reportedly failed to go by the said study and take preventive and remedial measures, the tribunal noted.
Proponents of development such as the Uttarakhand Hotels and Restaurant Association do not want any control over developmental activities. The area has enormous reservoirs of ice and snow, the bench noted.
“On account of unplanned human settlements, natural ecology and recharge of aquifers are affected. Concretization leads to landslides, the bench observed.
It pointed out that Proposed the tunnel below Mussoorie is dangerous. So is the proposed ropeway from Dehradun to Mussoorie. Ropeway and tunnel have damaged Joshimath. Traffic congestion adds to the burden on the mountain’s roads. Excessive building activities are beyond the capacity of Mussoorie.
During the proceedings, the Additional district magistrate (administration) informed the bench that an inspection was undertaken with regard to seepage and land subsidence of the buildings adjoining the road at Landour Bazar on January 12, and some multi-storeyed buildings were ordered to be vacated as they are in dilapidated condition.
“Sewage line is passing through the land which has subsided and there are no drains for drainage of the rainwater in 50-meter area of the buildings. The absence of proper drainage is the reason for the subsidence of sewer lines and roads,” ADM KK Mishra said.
The tribunal in view of this said that the potential for disaster at Mussoorie is not ruled out unless safeguards are taken.
The NGT pointed out, “Such potential exists in other hill cities of the country also, particularly in the Himalayan region, which has been noted in some (earlier) orders of the tribunal.”