National Green Tribunal: While deciding an original application along with a batch of appeals, a three member bench comprising of Swatanter Kumar, J. (Chairperson), Raghuvendra S. Rathore, J (Judicial Member), and Bikram Singh, Expert Member; decided in favor of the formation of a new capital city for the State of Andhra Pradesh holding that no better site than the present one was brought on record of the Tribunal.
The applicant invoked the jurisdiction of the Tribunal under Section 14(1) of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 to draw its attention to the plan of State of A.P. to build a Green Field New Capital, ‘Amravati’, as it poses a serious threat to the environment and a large population. Therefore, the applicant sought directions against State of A.P. and A.P. Capital Region Development Authority not to undertake any developmental activities, including urbanization or raising infrastructure on river flood plain, wet land and fertile agricultural lands which are part of the river catchment area.
The Tribunal dealt with all the contentions raised on behalf of the applicants in its extensively detailed 145-pages judgment. The Tribunal perused the material on record, expert opinions, published articles, expert committee reports, government documents, etc. to pass a well reasoned judgment.
The following paragraph highlights some of the issues related to environmental aspects, as contended by the applicant; and the Tribunal’s response/opinion on the same.
1. Flood Plains: The applicants have sought to contend that the capital city is prone to flooding from river Krishna.
The Tribunal perused the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report and found that as there is no flooding from river Krishna in capital city area due to existence of embankments/bunds, hence the proposed capital city cannot be said to be located within flood plains.
2. Dams: Applicant contended that since there are number of dams on river Krishna, the proposed city should not be located in the area as in the unfortunate events of dams breaking; these areas would be adversely affected.
Held, the contention was speculative. The principles of sustainable development were adhered to by incorporating certain unique features in the master plan. They were designed to take water to the designated area, such as stadiums, park, corridors and to prevent inundation of key installations, residential and commercial areas.
3. Wetlands and water bodies: Applicant submitted that the wetlands in the area need to be protected.
Held, the capital city is located 60 to 78 kms away from the coast and as such it does not come under the coastal region. A separate system of storm water drain has been planned so as to avoid mixing it with waste water. All the water bodies in the city will be having a green buffer zone.
4. Rich Agriculture land: The applicants have further raised the question that as the capital city area has rich agricultural land, the State Government should revisit the idea of selecting such area for the capital.
Held, projects have been completed to provide dependable source of water which will result in substantial increase in the agricultural productivity in the State. The State will also take steps to bring in additional land under agriculture, which is an on-going and a continuous process.
5. Project is located in highly polluted area: Applicant contended that the project area was highly polluted.
Held, the City would consist of an integrated network of public transport system with footpaths and cycle tracks along all the roads in the City. The Project Proponent proposes only green and clean industries in the City which would not have adverse impact on the air quality.
Thus, the Tribunal held that there was no better site than the present one selected for the formation of the capital city. However, the Tribunal also opined that the proposed site should be constructed in consonance with principles of sustainable development. Thus, the Tribunal directed that at the very initial stage of development, the State and the project proponent shall provide upon due identification of the sites for establishing/constructing STPs, municipal solid waste, landfill and management sites and such other public utilities and the construction thereof should start prior and in any case simultaneously with the development of the project.
Accordingly, with above directions to the respondents, the application and the appeals were disposed of. [Pandalaneni Srimannarayana v. State of A.P., 2017 SCC OnLine NGT 775, order dated 17.11.2017]