Friday, February 23, 2024

NGT dismisses application filed challenging construction work of Sewage Treatment Plant affecting riparian area of Indrayani river system 

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) dismissed an application filed challenging the construction work of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) being constructed by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) alleging therein that a major portion of the same is falling in ‘blue flood line’  Prohibited Zone (the area between the river bank and the blue flood line), which is inter-alia affecting the integrity, riparian area of the Indrayani river system. 

The activity of construction of a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is adversely affecting the eco-system. In the sanctioned plan dated 02.03.2015, the land situated at Village Chikhali was stated to have been affected by reservation no.1/130 of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). 

 It is further submitted in this application that PCMC on the Development Plan had proposed to include new Rule No.9.4 to use and/ or develop any flood lines in the existing Development Control Rules, which were submitted on 19.02.2015 with the Government of Maharashtra. As per the Old duly sanctioned Rule No.9.4 Sub-Clause (i) by the Government of Maharashtra, the area between the river bank and the blue flood line shall be a prohibited zone for any construction except parking, open vegetable market with otta type construction, garden, open space, cremation, burial ground, public toilet or like uses, provided the land is feasible for such development.  

In the reply affidavit dated 30.01.2024 of MPCB (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board), it is mentioned that Irrigation Department, Pune  had given an approval for construction of STP at  Chikhali, Pune vide letter dated 24.11.2022, which is in consonance with the Unified Development Control and Promotion Regulations for Maharashtra State (UDCPR)-2020, which provides as under:-  

“The area between the river bank and blue flood line (flood line near the river bank) shall be prohibited zone for any construction except parking, open vegetable market, garden, lawns, open space, cremation and burial ground, sewage treatment plant, water /gas /drainage pipe lines, public toilet or like uses, provided the land is feasible for such utilization”.

It is apparent from the above provision that the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is held to be a permitted activity in the area between the river bank and the blue flood line where the Gat no.92(1) lies and it is this construction, which is being opposed by the applicant, which does not appear to be appropriate to the Western Bench of  Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh and Justice  Dr. Vijay Kulkarni.

It is further mentioned in the reply affidavit of MPCB that the MPCB had granted Consent to Establish dated 16.03.2023 to PCMCfor construction of STP of 12.0 MLD capacity at Gat  near River Residency, Dehu-Alandi road, Chikhali, Pune, which is valid up to commissioning of the project or up to five years whichever is earlier. The NGT belief that this Consent to Establish has been granted after an inspection having been made of the spot and site in question must have been found to be in consonance with law.   

 From the side of PCMC, the same facts have been mentioned in their affidavit, which have been mentioned in the reply affidavit of  MPCB.

During argument, it is pointed out by the counsel for the  PCMC  that the applicant has tried to confuse this Tribunal by citing the Judgment of this Tribunal passed in the matter of Federation of River Residency Cooperative Housing Society vs. Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) & Ors. which was disposed of on 30.01.2020, where-in the issue, which was raised in that application, related to the construction of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in the area between the river bank and Blue Flood Line of the Indrayani River, which was said to be a Prohibited Zone and the said application was allowed holding that the Guidelines dated 03.05.2018 have obviously been issued by the Water Resources Department as an executive instruction, which cannot over-ride a statutory Notification or a subordinate legislation like the Development Control Rules, issued under Section 31(1) of Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act, 1996. 

Rule 9.4 having been issued under the said provision of law assumes statutory character and all circulars, guidelines or orders issued under the executive power of a State to the extent that are in conflict with the statutory Notifications would stand superseded. The Clause 7 of the Guidelines, therefore, stands superseded so far as it is in consistent or in conflict with the Notification dated 18.09.2017. On that basis, it was held that the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has been constructed within the Prohibited Zone and that the PCMC did not have the necessary Consent to Establish and that location for setting up of the same was also not suitable, as it obstructed the natural flow of the river during rainy season. Accordingly, a direction was issued by the Tribunal to demolish the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in question immediately.  

Having citing this Judgment, the counsel for PCMC has stated that the said Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) was at a different site, while the present STP is being constructed at a different site, which is a permissible activity as per the UDCPR for Maharashtra State-2020.  

Later on, from the side of applicants,counsel Parag Gandhi appeared before theBench through Video Conferencing. The NGT has provided him an opportunity to oppose the affidavits filed by the PCMC and MPCB.  After considering the same, we do not find any force in the argument made by the learned counsel for applicants and accordingly, the Bench is of the view that this application deserves to be dismissed.

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