By Sucheta Dasgupta
The much-awaited Society for Preservation of Kasauli and its Environs (SPOKE) vs M/s Kasauli Galaxie Resorts and other connected matters hearing took place at the National Green Tribunal on Friday (Sep 14) but did not end in an order or judgment.
A bench of chairperson Justice AK Goel, and Justices J Rahim, SP Wangdi and Nagin Nanda heard the matters pertaining to the construction of unauthorised hotels in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh.
The petition says “the bearing capacity of the soil and availability of potable water have all deteriorated in the hill station as a result of unbridled real estate development which has also taken place without adhering to waste management measures”.
Representing SPOKE, the petitioner, senior advocate HS Patwalia submitted a report by an environmentalist and also cited orders by the Himachal Pradesh High Court shutting down similar establishments in Manali and Shimla. He added that Kasauli was even more vulnerable as it was more prone to seismic activity. He argued that the area has witnessed several man-made and natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and landslides after the starting of construction activities in Kasauli.
Meanwhile, the advocate general for Himachal Pradesh said he was offended by the counsel for the applicant, saying he kept speaking out of turn.
Justice Goel said the main issue should be sustainability of the population and not “whether 2-3 storey building or 4-5 storey building should be built or whether there should be a road or not”.
He further observed that 50 percent of Delhi is built on encroached governments land. “And that’s why they had a sealing drive, because they built commercial space in residential and agricultural land,” he said.
He pointed out basements are also harmful to groundwater. Furthermore, he said, “environment laws are made, so that the next generation can’t suffer. Otherwise we’ll enjoy and they will not have a safe place.”
The counsel for the respondent said the defence ministry has approved construction of a parking lot at Cantonment area. He said the Cantonment area is already protected and that the people living there have to approach the Cantonment Board under the Cantonment Act even to repair their homes.
The amicus curiae, A Takkar, said there should be shuttle cabs or buses. He said that only eco-friendly construction should be done in the area.
The next hearing is on September 24.