National Green Tribunal states proposal for installation of a lighthouse in the greenway for protection of flood plain zone

The National Green Tribunal is of the view that on principle there can be no objection to the proposal for installation of a lighthouse in the greenway, adjacent to the Yamuna flood plains if its approved by the high level committee (HLC) and is meant for protection of flood plain zone.

The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Sudhir Agarwal heard the application filed by DDA seeking permission for the installation of the lighthouse in the greenway, adjacent to the Yamuna flood plains, for additional surveillance and security of the flood plains.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) vide Notification dated 07.10.2016 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 issued River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.

The said order prohibits construction in river or its active flood plains area of Ganga or its tributaries except for situations mentioned with permission of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

The issue of remedial action against pollution of Yamuna was subject matter of consideration in the original matter.

Tribunal passed order dated 13.01.2015  followed by 08.05.2015 and dated 07.12.2017 for remedial measures. Before the said order, the matter was dealt with by the Supreme Court and proceedings wherein were later transferred to this Tribunal.

One of the issues for rejuvenation of Yamuna is freeing floodplains from encroachments and protecting them for purposes connected with their protection.

To regulate this aspect, directions were issued vide order dated 13.01.2015. Compliance was to be supervised by a Principal Committee. Constitution of the said Committee was later modified on 24.07.2017 to the effect that the Committee was to be headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Since non-compliance continued beyond laid down timelines, vide order dated 26.07.2018, the Tribunal constituted Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) to monitor compliance of the directions for rejuvenation of river Yamuna.

Further orders were passed on 29.01.2019, 11.09.2019 and 05.03.2020 on consideration of reports of the YMC, followed by order dated 27.01.2021 disposing of the matter, on consideration of 5th report of YMC.

The said report contained recommendations under 13 different headings - E-Flow, setting up an SPV or any other body to oversee the River Related issues, Quality of River water, sewage Treatment Plants NGT’s order dated 6.7.20, Interceptor Sewerage Project (ISP), Repair and Maintenance of Drains, Industrial Pollution and CETPs, Septage management and Levy of EC, Online Monitoring System (OLMS), Use of Treated waste water, Industry Interface, the YMC had flagged the following issues to the State of Haryana for compliance of Orders of NGT dated 06.07.2020 and State of Uttar Pradesh and Pollution of the Yamuna. 

Further progress was reviewed on 16.02.2023. The Tribunal noted the report of the Delhi Government dated 31.01.2023 which mentions the minutes of the meeting of the HLC headed by Lieutenant Governor whereby targets were fixed on different action plans, responsibilities were assigned and monitoring mechanism was evolved.

It was further directed that the Committee may continue to deal with the issues and file progress report in the matter on 30.04.2023. Further review is to be undertaken by this Tribunal.

In the present application, it is stated that the HLC has been planning and overseeing rejuvenation work and in course thereof it was conceived that to prevent encroachment and for beautification of the flood plain of river Yamuna, ancillary activities are required such as bio-diversity parks to attract and educate citizens and nature enthusiasm without causing any damage to flood plain within the purview of orders of this Tribunal, including order dated 06.07.2020.

It is stated that the said area has been planted with trees of native varieties, endemic to the Yamuna floodplains, strategically chosen and planted in a multi-tier plantation system as upper storey, middle storey and lower storey, with a view to promote the ecological succession which is helping in nurturing of the floodplain bio-diversity.

In its meeting dated 27.01.2023, HLC resolved that the DJB, DPCC, I&F Control and DDA shall initiate an IEC campaign for awareness as well as involvement of the public at large in this initiative to restore the old glory of the River Yamuna. Grasslands have been developed with riverine species that help as binding material for the soil and improve the organic content of the degraded floodplains for the growth of other plant media.

Around 5,700 trees of native varieties and about 52 lakh riverine grasses have been planted till date in the 200 Ha area. The area has a restored wetland of about 7.4 hectares at the existing depression area.

It has a water body and marshy area, which is rich in biodiversity. It is further currently augmenting more than 190 million litres of water during peak monsoons. 

Lighthouse serves as a major attraction for the public as a watch tower (for controlled use) by the visitors of this area thereby also adding to the revenue generation and carrying forward the resolve of involvement of the public at large in this development.

Vision is to ensure that the Yamuna Floodplains will be accessible and attractive to the residents of Delhi NCR.

A light house will further enhance the experience by providing an overview to the restored Floodplains and River Yamuna.

In view of the current dearth of existing urban spaces in Delhi, for the recreation of the public at large, facilities as envisioned under the rejuvenation plan, will result in creation of one-ofits-kind urban space in Delhi. 

Efforts in this direction will assist in the public and citizenry to take ownership of the flood plains and further act as a deterrent for encroachers.

The proposed site for installation of the lighthouse falls in the Greenways that has been recommended by the Experts of the Principal Committee, to be designed as a public interactive zone. The installation is likely to occupy an area of 75-100 sq.m with the height ranging between 20-25 metres.

"On consideration of the above, we are of the view that on principle there can be no objection to the proposal if its approved by the HLC and is meant for protection of flood plain zone and is within the purview of permissible activity in terms of para 80 of the order of this Tribunal dated 13.1.2015 and River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.

This will require examination of the details of the project with its location in context of notified flood plain zone, structural designs, maintenance infrastructure like Power backup, basic amenities support and construction period with integrated environmental management requirements.

Since after order of this Tribunal dated 13.1.2015, NMCG has been named statutory regulator in terms of para 42 of the Ganga order quoted above, in our view further appraisal of activity being permissible should be by NMCG and if permission is given considering all relevant parameters, suitable safeguards found necessary for protection of the flood plain zone of Yamuna be adopted. NMCG may take decision preferably within one month of receiving of proposal. Statutory regulators may oversee compliance as per law", the order read.