The NGT has slapped a penalty of Rs 1 crore each on the Gammon India Limited and the Hindustan Construction Co (HCC) Ltd for damaging the environment by dumping soil in Chenab and Tawi rivers for construction on a stretch of the Udhampur-Banihal Highway in Jammu and Kashmir.
A bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also ordered them to furnish a performance guarantee of Rs 1 crore for improving the situation within the next three months.
“The deposit of compensation be made with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) within one month and the performance guarantee may also be furnished to the satisfaction of the CPCB within one month. Let further report of the committee be furnished after three months but before June 30, 2019,” the bench said.
The tribunal passed the order after perusing a report by a monitoring committee, headed by former judge of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice J R Kotwal, which informed it that the project proponent should immediately discontinue with the use of dumping sites.
It also suggested that the state government and the Forest Department should show serious concern in providing suitable and adequate number of new dumping sites to the project proponent within the shortest possible time.
The green panel also asked the committee to examine the actual extent of damage and the amount required for restoration.
Noting the report, the NGT said, “Having regard to the entirety of the fact situation and the observations of the Committee to which there is no challenge, we direct the Gammon India Limited and the Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd. to pay interim compensation for the damage to the environment to the extent of Rs 1 crore each and also furnish performance guarantee for improving the situation in the manner suggested within
The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by Ramban resident Amaresh Singh against rampant dumping of soil in Chenab and Tawi rivers and sought directions to restrain the authorities from throwing debris in the water bodies while constructing the stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar Highway between Udhampur and Banihal.
The plea, filed through advocate Swarn Kishore Singh, had said the work on four-laning of the stretch of the highway was being executed in “a reckless manner” and loose soil was being dumped directly into the two rivers.
The tribunal had earlier constituted a committee comprising a senior scientist from the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Shimla-based Himalayan Forest Research Institute.
It also directed the committee to submit in its report, technical information proposed for disposal of the soil lying along the highway.
The NGT had earlier directed the Jammu and Kashmir government and the state pollution control board to test ambient air quality in the entire construction stretch of Udhampur-Banihal highway after a plea alleged air pollution in the area.