The Pune bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has dismissed a petition seeking ceasing of work on the Garudeshwar weir project for non-compliance of environmental norms. Stating a technical reason, the tribunal said that the case was brought before it more than six months after the construction had commenced and was thus “barred by limitation” of time period. Following the judgment, the petitioners have said that they would now move the Supreme Court.
The NGT stated in its judgment that the application was not filed within six months from the day the work was allotted to M/s Ritwick Construction Pvt.
Limited in 2012. The counsel of the applicants had argued that the limitation in the case was five years and not six months, which was rejected by the Tribunal while citing the provisions of the NGT Act, 2010.
A group of environmental activists had approached the NGT on January 16, 2014, demanding an immediate stay on the ongoing construction of the weir, which will be a part of the larger Statue of Unity project, because no environmental clearance was sought from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFC).
The weir is to come up around 12 kilometres downstream of the Narmada dam. It will have a storage capacity of 1 million acre feet of water that will be pumped back to the dam and sent through turbines for production of extra electricity. It will also serve as a tourist attraction as part of the ambitious Statue of Unity project.
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), Gujarat government, MoEFC, Chairman of Environment Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority (NCA), Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Water Resources were made respondents in the case.
“The applicants have come out with a case that they were alarmed when the construction activity was noticed by them somewhere in September, 2013. They categorically stated in the application. It further appears that around March 2012, it was decided to award the contract to M/s Ritwik Project Pvt. Ltd, Hyderabad for an amount of Rs 299.43 crore for Garudeshwar Weir.”
The Tribunal held that the applicant was aware of the fact that the project work was to commence and contract awarded to the private construction company in March 2012, adding that “the date of knowledge regarding the alleged illegal activity, is imaginary and carved out to fit the application within socket of section 14 of the NGT Act, 2010, somehow.”
One of the applicants, Rohit Prajapati said the matter was rejected by the Tribunal only on technical grounds. He said the state reason was that it was not filed within the time limit prescribed by the NGT Act, 2010 but most other contentions of the applicants were accepted.
”We approached the court only after receiving all the documents, including one from an official of the MoEFC that stated that environmental clearance for the project was not sought. The court has accepted all our major arguments and we have decided to move the SC,” Prajapati said.
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