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NGT takes exception to encroachments on Deepor Beel

By AJIT PATOWARY
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GUWAHATI, Sept 16 - The Kolkata-based Eastern Zone (EZ) Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the State respondents and the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) to produce before it the original map of Guwahati city which would include the Deepor Beel �as it existed traditionally.� It has also called for a concrete proposal for mitigation of the problem caused by the railway track by disturbing the existing elephant corridor.

The NGT Bench has also impleaded the Secretary to the Ministry of Railways as a respondent (No. 9) in the case filed by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury (Original Application No. 19/2014/EZ, Rohit Choudhury versus Union of India and Others) in its September 14, 2017 order.

In the same order, the NGT Bench has further observed that the need for seeking environment clearance for the municipal solid waste (MSW) management facility within the Deepor Beel is �unavoidable in the present case, and, therefore, steps taken in this direction shall also be indicated on the next date.� It has fixed November 23 as the next date for the case.

The NGT Bench has also said that apart from the original map of Guwahati, the State respondents and the GMDA should also produce the map indicating the present demarcation of the wetland�s boundary said to have been carried out.

It directed the State�s authorities concerned to verify on the extent of encroachments made into the Deepor Beel too with reference to the revenue records.

It also observed that the MSW dumping site of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation in the Pub-Boragaon area �does not appear to be outside the �Deepor Beel� as contended by the State respondents.�

In a significant observation, the NGT Bench said in its order, �On a visit of the water body by one of us (Justice SP Wangdi) in August, 2017, it was noticed that the MSW dumping site does not fall beyond the water body but within it on the eastern side falling along the highway leading to the airport.�

Moreover, rampant encroachments of the water body by various constructions, which were either industrial establishments or hotels of varying sizes or residential buildings, etc., were also noticed during the visit.

At many places, wall-like structures were found penetrating into the lake as demarcation of various sites for future constructions, says the order.

The NGT Bench has said that the above position raises serious questions as to whether the demarcation of the Deepor Beel has been carried out correctly and whether the apparent illegal constructions were taken into consideration while carrying out the work of demarcation.

It has also wondered as to what was the extent of Deepor Beel in the original revenue records and maps, and whether the Deepor Beel boundary was demarcated immediately before or after it was declared a Ramsar Site.

It has maintained that a railway track has cut across a portion of the Deepor Beel, which is said to be an elephant corridor. It has also wondered as to what would be the alternative to the existing MSW dumping ground in the wetland.

It has further maintained that it is not convinced with the submission of the NF Railway (Respondent No. 8) that it was not possible to construct an over-bridge in the stretch where the railway track has passed near the Deepor Beel due to the geographical location of the area.

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NGT takes exception to encroachments on Deepor Beel

GUWAHATI, Sept 16 - The Kolkata-based Eastern Zone (EZ) Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the State respondents and the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) to produce before it the original map of Guwahati city which would include the Deepor Beel �as it existed traditionally.� It has also called for a concrete proposal for mitigation of the problem caused by the railway track by disturbing the existing elephant corridor.

The NGT Bench has also impleaded the Secretary to the Ministry of Railways as a respondent (No. 9) in the case filed by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury (Original Application No. 19/2014/EZ, Rohit Choudhury versus Union of India and Others) in its September 14, 2017 order.

In the same order, the NGT Bench has further observed that the need for seeking environment clearance for the municipal solid waste (MSW) management facility within the Deepor Beel is �unavoidable in the present case, and, therefore, steps taken in this direction shall also be indicated on the next date.� It has fixed November 23 as the next date for the case.

The NGT Bench has also said that apart from the original map of Guwahati, the State respondents and the GMDA should also produce the map indicating the present demarcation of the wetland�s boundary said to have been carried out.

It directed the State�s authorities concerned to verify on the extent of encroachments made into the Deepor Beel too with reference to the revenue records.

It also observed that the MSW dumping site of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation in the Pub-Boragaon area �does not appear to be outside the �Deepor Beel� as contended by the State respondents.�

In a significant observation, the NGT Bench said in its order, �On a visit of the water body by one of us (Justice SP Wangdi) in August, 2017, it was noticed that the MSW dumping site does not fall beyond the water body but within it on the eastern side falling along the highway leading to the airport.�

Moreover, rampant encroachments of the water body by various constructions, which were either industrial establishments or hotels of varying sizes or residential buildings, etc., were also noticed during the visit.

At many places, wall-like structures were found penetrating into the lake as demarcation of various sites for future constructions, says the order.

The NGT Bench has said that the above position raises serious questions as to whether the demarcation of the Deepor Beel has been carried out correctly and whether the apparent illegal constructions were taken into consideration while carrying out the work of demarcation.

It has also wondered as to what was the extent of Deepor Beel in the original revenue records and maps, and whether the Deepor Beel boundary was demarcated immediately before or after it was declared a Ramsar Site.

It has maintained that a railway track has cut across a portion of the Deepor Beel, which is said to be an elephant corridor. It has also wondered as to what would be the alternative to the existing MSW dumping ground in the wetland.

It has further maintained that it is not convinced with the submission of the NF Railway (Respondent No. 8) that it was not possible to construct an over-bridge in the stretch where the railway track has passed near the Deepor Beel due to the geographical location of the area.

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