The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and others on a petition filed by an NGO over illegal encroachment of shrimp ponds and salt pans on the flood plains of Sena creek and Kim river in Surat and Bharuch districts , leading to bottle-necking of waterflow into the sea and damaging coastal ecology.
The NGO, Brackish Water Research Centre (BWRC), in its complaint filed with NGT West zone, said that the illegal shrimp ponds on the floodplains of Sena creek and Kim river in Olpad have affected the natural flood water drainage capacity, in violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986 CRZ notification 2011 and 2019.
The shrimp farms have also increased the risks of man-made floods in Olpad, Surat and Hansot in Bharuch, the complaint filed by BWRC South Gujarat president MSH Shaikh said.
The NGT bench comprising Justice Sheo Kumar Singh and judicial member Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal heard the petition on August 24 and issued notices to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and others, to file a reply by email within six weeks.
Talking to The Indian Express, Shaikh said, “Due to such illegal encroachment of shrimp ponds and salt pans on the flood plains, flood-like situation was witnessed in the villages of Olpad taluka in Surat district and Hansot taluka in Bharuch district in 2019 and 2020.”
Kim river originates from Gujarat-Maharashtra border in Jankhvav and Kim village in Surat district, from where it splits into two. One part flows to Hansot taluka in Bharuch district, while the other part flows through Olpad taluka in Surat district. Sena creek starts from Kosamba in Surat district and passes through Olpad taluka.
“Due to the illegal encroachments, only 80 metres is left for water passage from Sena Creek into the sea, while 150 metres width is left for the Kim river… This area falls under critical vulnerable coastal area designated by the central government,” Shaikh said.
In the application, the NGO demanded the removal of all illegal shrimp ponds and salt pans, widening the flood plain area. “The government should ban upcoming new ponds in this area and set up an expert committee. We have earlier complained to various state and central government departments to no avail and finally approached the NGT,” Shaikh added.