The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice in an appeal filed against an NGT Order which dismissed the plea filed against vast-scale illegal constructions and encroachments on nearly 800 acres of the eco-fragile floodplains of River Ganga in Patna.
A Bench of Justices RF Nariman and Aniruddha Bose heard the submissions of Advocate Akash Vashishtha and proceeded to issue notice in the same.
In the plea filed on behalf of Ashok Kumar Sinha, substantial questions related to the environment arising from continuous unauthorized and illegal constructions as well as other permanent encroachments were raised. It was submitted that over a massive 520 acres of ecologically sensitive floodplain, stretching from Nauzer Ghat to Nurpur Ghat, had been usurped and that this stretch was prone to recurrent floods every year.
"In several areas of the floodplain, private realtors are perpetrating full-scale residential colonization with the consequence that all such residential buildings and houses are digging borewells without any permissions or approvals from the concerned authorities. The state agencies, instead of acting against such illegal constructions and encroachments, were providing them electricity connections."
The plea goes on to highlight that the illegal constructions and encroachments are being carried out in habitats which provide shelter to the Gangetic Dolphin, which is protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and has been declared as an Endangered Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Owing to rich presence of a sizable number of Dolphins in the aforesaid stretch, as also its upstream and downstream, the State of Bihar had decided to set up a National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) on the banks of Ganga in Patna. The Centre is said be the first of its kind in the country and Asia. These illegal and unauthorized constructions and encroachments were destroying the habitat and, thereby, the very survival of Gangetic Dolphins."
It has further been contended that the constructions and encroachments have been creating tremendous amounts of waste, noise and generating vast quantum of sewage that has been directly flowing, untreated, into the Ganga River. This is further aggravating the risk to life and property of the dwellers who occupy the surroundings as it leads to flooding.
"The Appellant raised the issue that the said illegal and unauthorized constructions and encroachments violates Clauses 6(3) and 6(4) of the Ganga Notification (River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016) that prevents any project or process or activity which has the effect of causing pollution in the River Ganga."
Another issue which has been raised in the plea is that the illegal and unauthorized constructions and other ancillary activities carried out on the Ganga floodplain are in gross violation of the notified Master Plan of Patna 2031 which has depicted the entire floodplain area of Ganga as a Biodiversity Zone, implying thereby that the land use of such area, as so depicted has to be kept free of any construction or encroachment, whatsoever.
The impugned Order of the NGT dated 11th December, 2019, held that "there were no particulars of the alleged violators in the application", and therefore failed to consider the fact that the Appellant had undertaken a physical verification of the entire area, by risking his own life, and identified a number of structures which had been raised on the floodplains.
In light of the above, the aforementioned plea was filed, impugning the NGT order.