Mahanadi river bed construction: NGT pulls up Odisha government over affidavit

The counter affidavit was in reply to a fresh petition seeking intervention against illegal constructions in violation of specific directions the Tribunal had issued regarding 426 acre of Mahanadi river bed
Mahanadi river bank.
Mahanadi river bank.(File Photo)

CUTTACK: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday pulled up the state government for filing a counter affidavit “irresponsibly”.

The counter affidavit was in reply to a fresh petition seeking intervention against illegal constructions in violation of specific directions the Tribunal had issued regarding 426 acre of Mahanadi river bed reclaimed by sand filling within the area upstream of the barrage at Jobra in Cuttack.

The NGT’s East Zone Bench in Kolkata was hearing the fresh petition filed by social activist Pradip Pattanaik on whose plea the NGT had issued the specific directions on September 21, 2022.

The bench of Justice B Amit Sthalekar (judicial member) and Dr Arun Kumar Verma (expert member) also condemned the brazen way in which false claims had been made in the counter affidavit. In the counter affidavit, engineer-in-chief of Water Resources department Bhakta Ranjan Mohanty claimed, “No illegal construction has been made on the Mahanadi river bed to cause any obstruction in the river.”

In contrast, the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Odisha, confirmed creation of an artificial concrete island with permanent structures within the reclaimed area of Mahanadi river bed. Accordingly, the bench rejected the counter affidavit, allowing the state government to file a better affidavit by May 29, the date fixed for next hearing on the matter.

In the affidavit, member secretary of SEIAA, Odisha Dr Kailasam Murugesen said artificial concrete island has been created by establishing a cafeteria, food court, liquor bar-cum-restaurant, paid vehicle parking, paid picnic spot and large area surrounded by concrete wall.

The SEIAA member secretary said, “Many other constructions are going on at present by dumping and filling of sand soles of the river bed of river Mahanadi. Most of the points alleged by the petitioner are true. In this case the SEIAA, Odisha has not issued any environmental clearance (EC) for any types of construction and area development work.”

Senior advocate Sisir Das along with advocate Anand Jena made submissions virtually mode on behalf of the petitioner along with a rejoinder to the state government’s affidavit. The rejoinder said Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) had in violation of the NGT order acquired around 5 acre and come up with concrete structures by increasing the height by around 15 ft from the original river bed and operating a commercial boat club providing paid boating rides, a liquor bar, cafe, amusement park and parking area with entry fees fixed at `50 per person.

In the September 21, 2022 order, the NGT had prohibited concretisation of any sort on the entire 426 acre of reclaimed river bed land.

The NGT had further ordered for developing 284 acres of the reclaimed river bed area ‘as dense forest’, while allowing the remaining 142 acre to be developed as parks/playgrounds without any permanent or temporary constructions and without any commercial activities.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com