: The National Green Tribunal (
) has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (
) to recover damages for environmental violations, and if required, issue directions for “closure” of Sushant Lok 1, one of Gurugram’s largest and oldest privately developed residential colonies spread across sectors 27, 28, 43 and 52.
The ruling is a landmark one in a city which has largely grown around privately developed colonies, many of which have seen their amenities and infrastructure decline because of maintenance lapses and departures from original plans, and paves the way for more legal challenges. It also brings under scrutiny the role of government agencies that stood by and watched, with the green court saying they had “failed to perform their duties”.
The order was issued by a bench comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (chairperson), Justice S P Wangdi and Justice K Ramakrishnan as judicial members, and Dr Nagin Nanda as expert member. It came after a report was filed by a committee, comprising five national-level agencies, highlighting 10 grave environmental violations in the 30-year-old colony.
These include encroachment of green areas, illegal extraction of groundwater, dumping of untreated sewage in stormwater drain, and raising constructions in violation of norms, etc.
The NGT, while disposing of the petition filed by ‘Praveen Kakkar and Others vs Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’, stated action against the developer of Sushant Lok 1 may include recovery of damages for loss to environment and also closure of the project.
It wasn’t immediately clear what “closure” meant because Sushant Lok 1 is home to 10,000 families and has been built by Ansal API. From a showpiece colony when it first came up, it must today contend every day with crumbling infrastructure, visible in the run-down state of some of its roads and the green areas falling to encroachers.
“CPCB will be at liberty to coordinate with concerned authorities, including Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB). Action may include recovery of damages for loss to environment, closure of project as well prosecution under relevant statutory provisions,” states the order, a copy of which is with TOI, passed on January 8, but issued on January 12.
The NGT held government agencies responsible for not taking enough action against the developer already. “It’s clear that despite serious violations, HSPCB has failed to perform its duties in taking statutorily mandated coercive measures under sections 31A of the Air Act and 33B of the Water Act, or initiating prosecution. The CGWA, CPCB, HSPCB have also failed to perform their duties. DTCP appears to have colluded,” the order states.
Residents welcomed the move. “We’re glad NGT has given such a strong order,” said Nirmal Singh, a resident of Block A, Sushant Lok 1. “We moved to the area in 2002. It was much better than what it is now as green areas have been illegally sold,” said Shashi Sharma, a resident of Block C.
Questioning why 45% of the area was not left for open/green space, advocate Yatish Goel said, “As per law, the builder had to leave about 45% area for open spaces, parks, roads, etc, which comes to about 270 acre. But the builder did not abide by the law in collusion and connivance with DTCP officials. The project’s layout plan was changed over 10 times. The sole objective and purpose of the amendments was to wipe out the green and open areas. By never measuring the area (45%) on site, DTCP officials extended favours to the builder to the tune of thousands of crores.”
After a case hearing in September 2018, the green tribunal formed a joint committee comprising CPCB, DTCP, Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, CGWA and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority to furnish a report.
The committee filed its report last week, in which the following violations were identified — encroachment of green belt, no environmental clearances for two projects, no clearance from HSPCB, no NOC (no objection certificate) obtained from CGWA for extracting groundwater, no sewage treatment plant, non-functional rainwater harvesting pits, no maintenance of roads, footpaths and parks, violation of C&D norms; and flouting norms to install and operate diesel gensets.
The CPCB has to submit an action plan in NGT within three months.