Amid indications about government seeking a revision of NGT orders relating to construction ban in Shimla’s greenbelt and core areas, the committee formed to find a way forward to enforce the order held its first meeting on Monday, but failed to reach any consensus.
Another meeting will now be held on Tuesday to finalise a draft paper proposing legal and administrative route-map to the situation in the wake of NGT orders. Meanwhile, top Town and Country Planning officials led by Director Sandeep Kumar also suggested approaching NGT or Supreme Court to ask for review of the November 16 order as the judgment will impact infrastructure growth. There is also a case pending in High Court too over government’s earlier move to regularise all illegal constructions.
The committee that met on Monday was set-up after state Chief secretary V C Pharka held consultations with top secretaries, including additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development) and Principal secretary (Environment) Tarun Kapoor, to discuss strategy to enforce the order. Principal Secretary (Law) Baldev Singh, who chaired the meeting, asked the administrative departments including Town and Country Planning (TCP) and Shimla Municipal Corporation (MC) to come out with proposals as what teething problems they would face while enforcing the ban.
Insiders revealed the officials were of the view that some of the prohibitions, and new regularisations imposed by the NGT run almost contradictory to the TCP Act. Immediate fall-out of the ban will be on proposed ‘Smart City’ project for Shimla, which was seen as mean to transform town’s future in terms of civic amenities, traffic mobility, sewerage and solid waste management beside water supply and basic urban infrastructure.
“Leave aside what impact it will have on new constructions in the non-core areas or localities, which don’t fall in the greenbelt, the government departments and instrumentalities will not be able to do any new project in the town, and its peripheral areas,” said a senior official. The NGT has ordered that future constructions in the non-core areas and those beyond greenbelt will not exceed two-storeys and an attic .The TCP Act,however, has different provisions. Now, the question is what will prevail — the TCP Act, a legislation which has not been declared null and void, or the NGT order.
“It’s a big dilemma which the agencies face in the enforcement of the judgment. Further the NGT has set-up two supervisory and regulatory bodies to oversee the constructions and adhering to the TCP provisions. The TCP Act and Municipal Corporation Act don’t have any such inbuilt regulatory mechanism,” said a senior official of Shimla MC.
The officials feel though the committee set up by the Chief Secretary was free to do its exercise, the decision on whether to seek review of the NGT orders or implement the judgment in it’s letter and spirit will, however, be taken by the new government. Earlier, all the elected municipal councillors of the BJP, Congress and Left had adopted a resolution asking the state government to file a review petition against the NGT order. Shimla-based Nagrik Sabha — a Left-backed body, had also threatened to launch an agitation against the NGT ruling.
The NGT, in its 145-page order passed on a petition filed by Shimla resident Yogendra Mohan Sengupta, had observed that constructions in the town need to be stopped if they exceeded carrying capacity of the town which falls in the seismic zone. Putting out 29 guidelines for action, the NGT said that wherever unauthorised structures, for which no plans were submitted for approval or NOC granted, and such areas falls beyond the core and green/forest area the same shall not be regularised or compounded.
However, where plans have been submitted and the construction work with deviation has been completed prior to this judgment and the authorities consider it appropriate to regularise such structure beyond the sanctioned plan, same shall not be compounded or regularised without payment of environmental compensation at the rate of Rs 5,000 per sq ft (in case of exclusive self-occupied residential construction) and Rs 10,000 per sq ft (in case of commercial or residential-cum-commercial buildings).