ROURKELA: The Eastern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken suo motu cognisance of the shrinking of British-era pond ‘Bijli Bandha’ at the district headquarters town. The Sundargarh administration is carrying out renovation and beautification of the heritage pond with plans to develop it into a recreational facility. The work on ‘Bijli Bandha’ was started in October last year ignoring reservations of locals over shrinking of the water body.
Filing a suo motu case on November 25 and hearing it on November 26, the NGT bench comprising Judicial Member Justice B Amit Sthalekar and Expert Member Justice Saibal Dasgupta referred the news reports of TNIE and other vernacular Odia dailies and issued notices to the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, Odisha government, State Pollution Control Board, Sundargarh district Magistrate, Odisha Wetland Authority and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) as respondents.
The notices were immediately served to the counsels of the six respondents who were present in the NGT for other cases. The order stated that the respondents should file their counter affidavits within four weeks and exchange the same among themselves at least one week before the next date of hearing. The next hearing is listed for January 11, 2022.
The renovation and beautification of ‘Bijli Bandha’ started with the Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti acting as project management consultant. The work began on an agreement value of Rs 25.90 crore which was subsequently revised upwardly to Rs 30.42 crore with addition of new components.
Former councillor of Sundargarh municipality Himanshu Sarangi claimed that three years back, the administration had spent around Rs 1.07 lakh for de-silting of the pond. However, under the ongoing pond development project, substantial portion of the water body and the adjacent wetland have been filled with earth.