SC directs Bihar govt to ensure no further construction takes place adjacent to Ganga

The Supreme Court has directed the Bihar government to ensure that no further construction takes place adjacent to the Ganga River particularly in and around Patna.

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Augustine George Masih directed the state government to file an affidavit informing it about the removal of identified illegal structures, which have been raised on the floodplains of Ganga River in Patna.

“When the matter is called on for hearing, counsel for the state of Bihar submits that the state has identified 213 unauthorised constructions adjacent to the river Ganga in and around Patna and steps have been taken to remove these encroachments/constructions,” the Bench said.

“On that date (February 5, 2024) the state shall report to this court the progress in getting these unauthorised structures removed by filing an affidavit. Such affidavit shall be filed by the chief secretary of Bihar. The state shall also ensure no further construction takes place adjacent to the river Ganga particularly in and around the city of Patna,” the bench said.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by Patna resident Ashok Kumar Sinha against the June 30, 2020, order of the National Green Tribunal dismissing his plea against illegal constructions and permanent encroachments on the eco-fragile floodplains.

The plea contended that the tribunal passed the order without examining the detailed particulars of the violators encroaching upon the Ganga floodplains in Patna submitted by the appellant.

“The illegal and unauthorised constructions and permanent encroachments on the floodplain of Ganga are creating tremendous amounts of waste, noise and generating vast quantum of sewage,” said the plea filed through advocate Akash Vashishtha.

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“They are aggravating the risk to life and property of the dwellers occupying the surroundings since every year, the areas stated in preceding paras go down under flood waters. The illegal constructions were obstructing the natural course of the river,” it said.

The plea said they were causing deleterious environmental impacts on the rich biodiversity and destroying the habitat and, thereby, the very survival of Dolphins, a Schedule I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, on the stretch.

The plea stated that the tribunal failed to note the fact that a clean Ganga was vital and essential to meet the drinking and domestic water needs of the 5.5 lakh population of the city as the groundwater in the district was contaminated with Arsenic.

“A massive 520 acres of ecologically sensitive Ganga floodplain, stretching from Nauzer Ghat to Nurpur Ghat, in Patna, have been usurped. This stretch is prone to recurrent floods every year. A multi-storey building, belonging to the Takhat Shri Harmandir Sahib, has further come up since 2017 and parts, thereof, are still under construction,” the plea said.

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