NGT forms panel to ascertain environmental damage by illegal road built inside Nainital bird reserve

 The National Green Tribunal has formed a panel to ascertain the extent of damage to the environment caused by private hotel owners who allegedly constructed a road by flouting the rules in the Naina Devi Himalayan Bird Conservation Reserve in Uttarakhand’s Nainital district.

The green panel was hearing a petition, which alleged that several hotel owners, in collusion with forest department officials, constructed a road inside the reserve in the Budh-Pangot area in 2017.

Widening of the road also continued till December 2022, it alleged.

The road was constructed by felling trees and “demolishing” the reserve forest land, in violation of the Forest Conservation Act and the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in March 2019, the petition claimed.

A bench of Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava said the allegations “involved a substantial question relating to the environment”.

“We deem it proper to constitute a joint committee comprising of the Wildlife Warden, Uttarakhand, Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board and District Magistrate, Nainital,” the bench said in an order passed last week.

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The district magistrate will act as the nodal agency for coordination and compliance, the bench, also comprising expert members A Senthil Vel and Afroz Ahmad, said.

“The committee will visit the site, ascertain the nature of the land on which the alleged road has been constructed, also ascertain name/other details of the trees, if any, felled in the process of construction of road and the extent of damage caused to the environment in the process and suggest remedial action, if any, for restoration,” the tribunal said.

It said the committee has to disclose the names of the people, including hotel owners, responsible for the road’s construction.

“Let the report be submitted by the committee within eight weeks,” the tribunal said.

The matter has been posted to December 11 for further proceedings.

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