New Delhi:  The National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty of Rs 20 lakh on a developer in Uttarakhand for construction of hotel within 200 meters from the Ganga river bank.

The green panel slapped the environmental compensation on Darrameks Hotels and Developers Pvt Ltd after it noted that the project proponent violated the order passed by Uttarakhand High Court which prohibited construction of any commercial unit within 200m of the river bank.

“The Project proponent (Respondent No. 1) shall be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rs. 20 Lakh for violating the conditions set in the Consent to Establish issued by the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) and for disturbing the immediate/direct catchment of the river Ganga by changing the drainage pattern through the use of JCBs (mechanical excavators) for levelling the area.

The tribunal also pulled up Uttarakhand government for issuing No Objection Certificate (NoC) to the hotel, located adjacent to the river, without inspecting the site in question.

“It was the responsibility of Uttarakhand and its various instrumentalities to find out whether the said hotel project could have been permitted to be constructed in the impugned plot of land, which is contiguous with the river bed. However, it is noted that the concerned authorities do not seem to have visited the area and issued the NOCs without the application of mind.

“This fact gets substantiated by the later letters issued by UEPPCB, which also contained the said condition, but the agency never bothered to take action against the project proponent for the violations committed by it in view of the court/government orders that were in force at that point of time,” the bench said.

It also constituted a committee headed by Uttarakhand pollution control board to inspect the site in district Tehri Garhwal of Uttarakhand and give its recommendations with respect to the hotel project and its impact on Ganga. The tribunal directed the committee to submit its report within four weeks and prohibited Darrameks Hotels and Developers Private Limited from further construction on the area till the time the panel submits its report.

The judgement came on a petition filed by Rajiv Savara, a chartered accountant by profession, who had alleged that illegal commercial construction on the river bank was posing a serious threat to the ecology and causing irreparable damage to the river.

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