August 25, 2018 4:56:38 am
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed the Maharashtra government for failing to prepare a zonal master plan for Matheran hill station despite initiating the process 15 years ago. The NGT bench observed that the plan for the eco-sensitive zone was meant to be completed within two years, and slapped a fine of Rs one lakh on the state for the delay.
Responding to an application filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group, the NGT bench of Justice Raghuvendra Rathore and expert member Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal said, “It a classic case, relating to an area namely Matheran Hill Station, where initiation with regard to Zonal Master Plan for the Eco Sensitive Zone was undertaken prior to 2003. Despite limitation prescribed under law, zonal master plan of the said area, which was to come within two years, has not been completed, despite passage of more than 15 years.”
The bench said the delay reflected “non-seriousness about the issue by state government”. “In the meantime, the area has been exploited by private parties by raising constructions and using it for their vested interest and running businesses,” it said.
Highlighting the urgency of the matter, the Tribunal directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to finalise the zonal master plan for Matheran. It also warned that if the Union Ministry failed to come up with the master plan in two months, it would have to pay a substantial fine. “In case a zonal master plan is not finalised within two months by the authority concerned, then a cost of Rs 10,000 per day would be liable to be paid by the officers concerned of MoEF or the state government, whosoever is responsible for it,” the NGT said.
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The state government, meanwhile, will have to deposit the Rs 1 lakh fine with the Central Pollution Control Board within two weeks. It seemed the Maharashtra government has been processing the matter all these years, observed the NGT bench. While the state said it has sent a draft master plan to the Union ministry in June 2018, the latter submitted that the plan was incomplete.
The bench said neither the MoEF nor the state government “appeared to be much concerned about the relevant law”. “Even today, the same position exists as the state government has hurried up to file a draft plan, which is said to be incomplete,” stated the NGT bench.
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