Friday, December 1, 2023

Gauhati High Court disposes suo motu PIL related to preservation of Deepor Beel in Gauhati

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The Gauhati High Court disposed of a  Suo Moto writ as well as the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) relating to the preservation and proper management of Deepor Beel in Guwahati in compliance to the order passed by the Supreme Court.

Various orders have been passed in both petitions and under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 certain directions were issued to stop dumping waste at Chandrapur site, to take necessary steps for treatment and disposal of the waste already dumped at Chandrapur site, to assess the damage caused to the environment due to dumping of waste at Chandrapur and take necessary steps in that regard.  

The respondent authorities, including the Chief Secretary of the State of Assam has brought on record the fact that the Government of Assam with the help of IIT Kharagpur decided to have a plant for scientific disposal of solid waste at Boragaon dumping site and Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) was directed to execute the same.  

According to the respondents, Deepor Beel is the only Ramsar Site of the State declared in August, 2002 and it covers the core area of 4.14 sq. Kms. The said area is also notified Wildlife Sanctuary by the Environment and Forest Department vide Notification dated 21.02.2009 and the remaining area is under Revenue and DM Department. It is also averred that the balance area was brought under the Guwahati Water Bodies (Preservation and Conservation) Act 2008 and declared as water body under Section 4 of the 2008 Act. The respondent State of Assam has in detail brought on record the facts the attempts and efforts made to preserve the Deepor Beel wherein number of bird species and fish species have been recorded out of which as per the State of Assam 8 are endangered. 

The respondent No.1 (State of Assam) has also filed an affidavit whereby it is contended that Solid Waste Management facility is located , covering an area of 120 Bighas at West Boragaon within Guwahati Municipal Corporation area and the same is located at a distance of 15 km from Guwahati city, 1 km from the National Highway No.37, 0.5 km from Deepor Beel bisected by a Railway track on the western side. The Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has also taken certain steps to keep the area in question clean.  

Various orders have been passed by the Court for perseverance of the Deepor Beel. Similar affidavits are filed by the other respondents pursuant to the order passed by the High Court and steps have been taken for  perseverance  of the Deepor Beel.   

Ultimately by an affidavit dated 09.12.2022, GMC has averred as under; 
-That the Letter of Acceptance for Construction of Compost and RDF Plant of 150 TPD at Belortol, NH No.37 for a contract value of Rs.30,91,80,000.00/- (Thirty Crores Ninety One Lakhs Eighty Thousand only) was issued by the then Commissioner, Guwahati Municipal Corporation on 09.05.22 vide letter bearing memo No.GER/CE/1972/2021/32-A 
-4. That the work of construction of Compost and RDF Plant as per Letter of Acceptance dated 09.05.22 is progressing smoothly. That as per NIT period of construction of 150 TPD the Compost and RDF Plant is 12 months. The Construction of 150 TPD Compost and RDF Plant at Belortol, NH No.37 is likely to be commissioned in the month of June 2023.

In light of the aforesaid, the following directions are passed by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia :-
i) the respondent authorities shall protect the area of Deepor Beel and shall adhere to the statements made in the affidavits for protection of the said wetland. 
ii) the respondent State is hereby directed to see that the solid waste management plant under construction shall be fully commissioned latest by 1st July, 2023.   

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