The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped a fine of Rs 1.5 crore on the state Public Works Department (PWD) for causing “severe damage” to the environment by constructing pillars for a proposed skywalk at the historical Dhamapur dam in Sindhudurg district.
The Tribunal has asked PWD, which allegedly didn’t have environmental clearance for the project, to deposit Rs 1.5 crore with the Biodiversity Board within 15 days.
The western bench of NGT, comprising Justice S P Wangdi and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda, issued the directive in response to a petition filed by Dr Harishchandra P Natu. The petition had urged the NGT to act against the construction activity at the dam, which was constructed in 1530 and is spread over 125 acres alongside the reserved forest area.
“It is not disputed by any of the parties before us that the work in question is being undertaken by the state PWD. In the absence of any affidavit forthcoming from the state PWD, it would be reasonable to presume that the entire work has been undertaken in violation of environmental laws, including the EIA Notification, 2006,” stated the bench.
“Considering the severe damage caused by the project to the environment, ecology and the bio-diversity and reasonably assuming that huge amount of public money has been spent in the absence of environmental clearance for the project in question, we direct the state PWD to deposit Rs 1.5 crore with the Biodiversity Board against the mitigation measures which would be necessary for reversing the adverse impact on the ecology and loss of bio-diversity of the lake,” said the Tribunal.
The NGT asked the department to comply with its directive without fail within a period of 15 days, and sought a report of compliance before July 17.
Work on the skywalk had started in 2013. The petitioner had objected to the construction of the skywalk and said 35 pillars had already been erected while an additional 1,700 pillars had been planned, which would permanently damage the environment, ecology and bio-diversity of the area. The NGT had issued notices to the irrigation department, state PWD, state environment department and Biodiversity Board on the issue.