NGT seeks Response from Centre, Delhi Govt on 2023 floods

The National Green Tribunal has sought a response from the Union Ministry of Environment and the UnionMinistry of Jal Shakti, the Delhi government and others in a matter regarding the 2023 floods in the national capital, allegedly caused by unauthorised constructions on the Yamuna floodplain.

Delhi battled one of its worst flood-like situations in several pockets last year because of heavy rain, with more than 25,000 people being evacuated from the inundated areas.

The green panel was hearing a matter in which it took suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a newspaper report that said there was large-scale encroachment on the floodplain, with around 76 unauthorised colonies along the 22-kilometre stretch from Wazirabad to Palla.

The delineation of floodplain was required to prevent the encroachments, which caused the floods, the report said.

A bench of Judicial Members Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and Expert Member Afroz Ahmad said the tribunal had earlier formed a high-level committee headed by the Delhi chief secretary and directed it to make a spot inspection, ensure demarcation and suggest measures to prevent and remove encroachments, besides submitting a report.

The committee members included nominees from the Delhi Development Authority, the Delhi government’s Environment department, Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

In an order passed on Tuesday, the tribunal noted that the Delhi government’s Environment department had submitted a status report and sought 12 weeks to complete the steps that were decided in several meetings.

According to the report dated January 29, the committee identified broad actions and “the shortest possible time” for demarcation, two weeks for “remote determination of areas (based on ownership and land use separately)” and “preparation of high-resolution images on determined area to facilitate ground demarcation”, and “four weeks for ground verification”.

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It said, “The high-level committee deliberated at length the timelines required for the exercise and found that the entire operation needs massive inter-departmental collaboration, collection of data, ground surveys and verifications and on-ground demarcation to ensure effective implementation of this tribunal’s directions and thus requires more time.”

Allowing the prayer sought, the tribunal said because of “the nature of the issue and seriousness of the matter, including the need for inter-departmental coordination”, it was impleading as parties several authorities.

These include officials from the Delhi government, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the Delhi government’s Environment department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Union Ministry of of Jal Shakti and the Union Ministry of Environment.

“Respondents are directed to file their responses within one month,” the tribunal said.

The matter has been posted to March 21 for further proceedings.

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