National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday declined to dilute its orders to ban constructions — residential, institutional and commercial — in core areas, green-belt and forest areas of Shimla.
The order came as huge blow to the state government, which is faced with problem of massive unauthorised construction in Shimla and major tourists towns like Kasauli, Dharamshala, McLeodganj and Manali, apart from towns like Kullu and Kasol.
A four-member bench led by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, NGT chairman, dismissed a review petition seeking certain relaxations in the Tribunal’s order passed on November 16 ,2017 highlighting certain practical difficulties in implemention of the ban order.
The government’s review petition filed after BJP government took charge had cited problem to implement the orders of the Tribunal especially when Shimla ‘Smart City’ project and certain important institutional buildings, like Cancer hospital, were coming up in Shimla.
The NGT, however, said the argument doesn’t have any merit to review the earlier order passed by a bench led by Swatanter Kumar, its earlier Chairman in 145-page judgment on November 16, 2017.
The NGT apart from imposing a ban on constructions aimed to save Shimla from crumbling under haphazard and unplanned construction had also restricted number of stories only up to two and half (attic) in the non-core, green-belt and forest areas .
State’s Principal Secretary (TCP) Prabodh Saxena confirmed that the state government’s review petition has been dismissed . “As of now,the earlier order of November 16, 2017 will remain in force for implementation”.
This would mean, he explained, a total ban on constructions in the Shimla’s core area (central town area), green belt /forest areas, which were notified in 2000 for freezing new constructions in 17 forest patches. Beyond the core, green/forest area and the areas falling under Shimla Planning Area, construction may be permitted strictly only for two storeys plus attic floor.
Asked if the government will still go in for fresh review or approach High Court, Saxena said: “That’s a call which the government will take after studying the orders and consulting legal experts”.
The NGT orders to ban constructions were passed on a petition filed by one Yogendra Mohan Sen Gupta, who had alleged blatant violation of the TCP Act and building norms to raise illegal/unauthorised constructions threatening Shimla’s existence as a hill town.
Alarmed over the facts which were placed before the Tribunal during hearing, the NGT had also restrained the government from regularisation of unauthorised constructions within the core area and green/forest areas raised without obtaining any prior permission/sanction of plans in entirety.
For regularisation of the buildings in the non-core and green/forest areas, the NGT had specified an 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 commercial or residential-cum-commercial buildings. The amount so received should be utilised for sustainable development and for providing of facilities in the city of Shimla, it had said.