Muck In Rivers: U’khand HC Stays All Construction Work Across State Till Debris Disposal Sites Are Identified [Read Order]
Taking strong note of the illegal and unscientific disposal of debris in river which in the recent past resulted in flash floods in the state wherein many lives were lost, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday stayed all construction activities/widening of roads on the river banks in the state till the time agencies concerned identify muck disposal sites at least 500 metres away from the river banks.
A bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh passed the directions while disposing of a petition which raised the issue of rampant unscientific disposal of debris directly in the rivers rather than at designated sites to save the cost of transportation which is in outright defiance of the oft-repeated orders of the National Green Tribunal.
The sites of such disposal, the court noted, were washed away in the floods in the year 2013 and dumping of muck and excavated material have changed the course of rivers causing immense loss to life and property.
The bench on Monday passed the following “mandatory” directions:
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India, Uttarakhand Environment Protection & Pollution Control Board and Revenue Agencies, are directed to identify suitable muck disposal sites 500 meters away from the river banks for disposal of muck and excavated material within three weeksfrom today on the utmost urgent basis.
The muck shall be deposited/stacked only on the identified muck sites by putting up sign boards. Till the disposal sites are identified and become operational, till then, all construction activities/widening of roads on the river banks in the State shall remain stayed.
- The District Magistrates throughout the State of Uttarakhand are directed to ensure that no muck, debris or excavated material is dumped directly into the rivers by any hydro-electric company, developers and the authorities responsible for the construction of roads.
- The state authorities and private operators are directed to ensure minimum 15% flow of water immediately downstream of the weir/barrage/dam for the downstream requirement of the riparian owners.
- The state government is further directed to ensure that in the environment clearance including forest clearance, the provision is made for providing muck disposal sites in all the existing and new projects coming up on the river banks.
- The state government is directed to take suitable action and coercive steps against the persons including companies, government authorities, involved in the dumping of muck/excavating material into the rivers directly in an indiscriminate manner, forthwith.
Before passing these directions, the bench noted that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India and Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board have sanctioned the sites but the muck was not disposed of at these sites.
“The muck and excavated material is dumped into the river directly to save the cost of transportation. The free flow of rivers is impeded. The pollution has been caused by the muck and excavated material. It has caused immense damage to the rivers’ ecology and surrounding areas. The need of the hour is sustainable development. The companies involved in hydro-electric projects and developers cannot be permitted to use the rivers as dumping sites. The dumping sites are to be specifically provided for and the muck and excavated material can only be stacked/stored away from the river banks,” the bench observed.
“The rivers have an inherent and natural right to flow in length as well as in width. The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that the dumping of muck and excavated material has caused flash floods. The level of river bed has increased. The Alaknanda and Mandakini are important tributaries of River Ganges. 50% of the Indian population is dependent on the waters of Ganga and Yamuna Rivers for potable water as well as for irrigation purposes. The width of the mighty Rivers Ganga and Yamuna has been reduced to less than 50 meters. The rivers cannot sustain themselves if the sufficient quantity of water is not released from the Dams,” it said.
The bench also expressed concern over unscientific and illegal mining operations in the rivers causing immense damage to the fragile ecology of the area.Read the Order Here