The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and its contactors for dumping muck in the Chenab river in the course of the four-laning of Udhampur to Banihal national highway in Jammu and Kashmir and told the state pollution control board to take coercive measures in this regard.
A bench comprising NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel noted, “The state PCB may proceed with the recovery of compensation for the damage and initiate prosecution against the violators of environmental norms following the due process of law.”
The matter will now be taken up on March 31, 2021.
The order came on two inspection reports filed by the state pollution control board on the status of muck dumping on July 31 and September 17. The report stated that the dumping in almost all sites was found done in an unscientific manner and without proper compaction and terracing. On the consideration of the inspection reports, the monitoring committee, headed by a former Judge of the High Court, observed that there was a failure in preparing and maintaining designated dumping sites.
The dumping sites were overflowing and not properly maintained. The NHAI failed to exercise supervisory control,” the committee noticed. The report filed by the state PCB recommended that the project director of the NHAI, Ramban, project managers of Gammon Engineers and Contractors Private Limited, Hindustan Construction Company Limited and Choudhary Power Projects Private Limited be prosecuted under the Environment (Protection) Act for the non-compliance of conditions of environmental clearance and directly dumping muck in the Chenab. During the proceedings, the counsel for the NHAI did not dispute the report of the monitoring committee, but submitted that on its part, the NHAI had instructed the contractors for taking remedial action.
Counsels for the NHAI’s contactors reasoned that the area was prone to landslides and there was default on part of the government in not giving additional space. To this, the NGT pulled up the NHAI and said, “It cannot rest content by simply saying that it has asked the contractors to take remedial action. The responsibility of the NHAI to maintain environmental norms remains.” — IANS