Shillong, April 17 (IANS): A civil society group has filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal court over encroachment and pollution in a critical catchment area in Meghalaya by defence authorities, its members said on Monday.
In its petition filed on April 12, the Greater Laban Community Development Society (GLCDS) accused the defence authorities of rampant felling of trees and illegal construction of a boundary wall in the Lawsohtun area.
"The activity of construction and felling of trees is adversely affecting the ecosystem, and thus substantial question relating to protection of environment or critical catchment is involved, wherein the community at large is affected by the environmental consequences," GLCDS general secretary Anthony Marwein said in his petition.
The Lawsohtun area located within Shillong district has dense forest cover which has many precious plant species and several streams and rivulets coming from the Shillong Peak. These are the sources of drinking water to the inhabitants of the city. The forest is jointly maintained and controlled by the various village councils of the area.
While hearing a Public Interest Litigation on the matter in 2005, the Gauhati High Court had directed the advisory body constituted under the Meghalaya Protection of Catchment Area Act, 1990, to notify and declare the Lawsohtun forest and adjoining places as catchment areas within two months but nothing has been done so far.
Noting that Lawsohtun forest area is a community land and the defence authorities has no right, title and interest over it, Marwein said that the situation has come to such a pass that unless immediate necessary measures are adopted, a large chunk of population of Shillong would be adversely affected only because of the ineffectiveness of the State machinery to fulfil its legal and Constitutional duties.
The petition observed that unless the tribunal intervenes by declaring the Lawsohtun area as a critical catchment area and directs the defence authorities to immediately stop all construction work in the area, the people of Lawsohtun and Shillong will suffer immense loss and injury for no fault on their part.