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Railways & NHAI Show Scant Respect For Waterbodies During Construction; Zero Tolerance Policy Should Be Adopted: Madras High Court

Akshita Saxena
30 Jun 2021 2:44 PM GMT
Railways & NHAI Show Scant Respect For Waterbodies During Construction; Zero Tolerance Policy Should Be Adopted: Madras High Court
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The Madras High Court has expressed concern over frequent desecration of waterbodies for construction of highways, subways, etc. "The consistent refrain of this Court has been that waterbodies ought to be preserved to allow humans and other life forms to survive and a zero tolerance policy has to be adopted when it comes to disturbing or desecrating any waterbody any further," a...

The Madras High Court has expressed concern over frequent desecration of waterbodies for construction of highways, subways, etc.

"The consistent refrain of this Court has been that waterbodies ought to be preserved to allow humans and other life forms to survive and a zero tolerance policy has to be adopted when it comes to disturbing or desecrating any waterbody any further," a Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy observed.

The remarks were made while hearing a petition against destruction of one or more waterbodies by the railways for construction of a subway.

At the outset, the Bench observed that the concerned authorities, i.e., Railway and NHAI tend to show "little respect" to waterbodies standing in the way of their putting up new construction.

It noted that many major waterbodies all over the State and particularly in the urban areas have altogether disappeared. Even the reason for the devastating flood in 2015 was reported to be as a result of the flowing channels being impeded by arbitrary construction in this city, the Court noted.

It has therefore directed both the railway authorities and the State to file their counter-affidavits in the matter, within three weeks.

The matter has been posted for July 28, 2021.

During the course of hearing, the Railways authority submitted that the construction is almost complete and the subway is ready for use.

The Court has thus asked the State Government to indicate the nature of the land which has been constructed upon and also the feasibility of the construction being taken down, if necessary, to resurrect the waterbody, if there was one.

Pertinently, the Railway authority had also referred to an order of the High Court dated February 2, 2021 where a similar petition was disposed, requiring the petitioner therein to make a representation before the concerned authorities. It was urged that the instant Petitioner should also be directed to make a representation.

Rejecting this submission, the Division Bench observed,

"In several matters received subsequent to the order of February 2, 2021, the allegations levelled are that railway authorities and National Highways Authority of India in particular, tend to show little respect to waterbodies standing in the way of their putting up new construction to facilitate highways and railway operations.
While it is important that highways must be built and deeper access by using the railways is also welcome, the authorities ought to avoid making any construction on any waterbody and if it is completely unavoidable, pillars or the like may be constructed so that the larger part of the waterbody is left undisturbed and the nature thereof not irreversibly altered."

In another case, the High Court had observed that waterbodies are the lifeline for all animal species and thus, there has to be a zero tolerance for any kind of encroachment or endangerment of any waterbody.

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