The central zonal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.
A bench headed by Justice Dalip Singh and expert Satyawan Singh Garbyal directed the state wetland authority to review the allotments made so far after the submissions of the Vinod Kapoor and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Committee reports and asked it to submit the compliance report within six months.
Petitioner Ajay Dubey had alleged that in and around the Sambhar Lake, commercial and other activities detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland were being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts of 1986 and 2010.
The bench, in a recent order, also directed the state government to not make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas or in the ‘no construction zone’ identified for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010.
The bench, referring to the reports on the matter, directed the authority to examine the sensitive issue in light of observations and recommendations made by the two expert committees in the year 2010.
The bench gave six months’ time to implement the recommendations which should not be later than the 2017 monsoon.
In 2013, a PIL was filed by Naresh Kadyan in the Supreme Court accusing salt manufacturers of digging unauthorised borewells around the lake and exploiting the groundwater.
However, the court had dismissed the PIL in August this year directing the petitioner to approach NGT.
The illegal business of brine extraction at Sambhar Lake was first highlighted in the Vinod Kapoor fact-finding report in 2010.
The report had mentioned that 15-20 borewells were operating in every bigha of land during that period and over exploitation of water resources had lowered the groundwater level by almost 60 metres in the area.
While Sambhar Salts Ltd (SSL), a government venture, which has over 90 square miles at Sambhar and Nawa, produces two lakh tonnes of salt per annum, private companies together make around 20 lakh tonnes a year.