CUTTACK: The National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed committee in its final report has recommended ban on construction of permanent structures on the 424-acre reclaimed Mahanadi river bed upstream of Jobra barrage in Cuttack.
The NGT had asked a joint committee to assess the impact of the proposed Mahanadi Waterfront Development project after Cuttack-based social activist and lawyer Pradip Kumar Pattnaik filed a petition seeking intervention into reclamation of the river bed for commercial purposes. The river bed has been raised by nearly six feet upstream and downstream of Baliyatra ground by sand filling, pushing back the water stream to at least 500 metre from the bank, the petition stated.
The committee included representatives from Central Water Commission (CWC), nominees of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee and State Pollution Control Board. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was assigned as the nodal agency.
The CPCB had filed an affidavit before NGT’s east zone bench, Kolkata, on December 2, bringing on record the final report of the panel as well as floodplain zoning study for identified stretches of Mahanadi by the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela. In the affidavit, CPCB’s Regional Director Mrinal Kanti Biswas said the joint committee stressed on the need to follow National Disaster Management Authorities (NDMA) guidelines, 2008, while implementing any concept for utilisation of Baliyatra ground.
The report said that Baliyatra ground comes under flood plain zone and therefore, construction of structures of permanent type may be prohibited and only temporary structures be allowed subject to strict adherence to NDMA guidelines, building codes, etc. These structures should be planned far from the river water lines and active only during non-monsoon days so that there is no loss to life and property.
The panel recommended prohibition on construction activities like public infrastructure, art galleries, museums, etc. However, it raised no objections to construction of parks, gardens, sports facilities, open air markets like craft bazaar, food stalls and open air auditorium. “Any development activity in this area can be suitably planned keeping in mind the possible submergence of the Baliyatra rehabilitated area at least once in 25 years,” the committee said.
Taking on record the affidavit, a bench of Justice B Amit Sthalekar (Judicial Member) and Saibal Dasgupta (Expert Member) fixed January 27, 2022 as the next date for hearing on the matter. The bench also directed State counsel Janmejaya Katikia to file a reply to Pattnaik’s petition and the committee’s report.