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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

NGT raps MoEF, UP authorities for buck-passing over wetlands damage

Vinod Rajput , Hindustan Times  Greater Noida, August 22, 2013
First Published: 20:52 IST(22/8/2013) | Last Updated: 20:58 IST(22/8/2013)

Even as the Dadri wetlands were being commercialised for one and a half years, the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh authorities merely passed the buck over who should protect it, said the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday.

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"We are surprised to see the state of affairs prevailing in the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), state environment impact assessment authority (SIEAA) and the forest department, state of Uttar Pradesh and its department of environment, (all of) which seem to be shifting the burden of their responsibility to the other, but the net result being that environment, wildlife and wetlands are the victims of commercialisation," stated the order delivered by the principal bench of NGT judges comprising chairman Swatanter Kumar, UD Salvi, and SN Hussain.

The order said that in keeping with the environmental principle of sustainable development contained in Section 20 of the NGT Act, 2010, development at the cost of irreparable damage to the environment, wetlands and wildlife can hardly be supported.

"It has been advertised that there are a few plots facing the wetlands, which are sought to be sold at a premium value," said Amit Kumar, advocate for the petitioner, who had moved the NGT over the damage being done to the wetlands.

"It is common knowledge that the huge (scale of) construction in and around the wetlands would result in unavoidable destruction of wildlife and even result in diminishing, if not destroying, the wetlands," he said.

"A wetland, besides being a thing of beauty, is also a source of groundwater, and its pollution would even lead to health hazards for humans."

Spread over 20 hectares, the Dadri wetlands is home to several rare species of birds as well as blackbucks, chinkara and deer.

Forest and wildlife inspector general SK Khanduri in his report dated January 23, 2012 that was submitted to the MoEF, had stated that Dadri harbours a good population of birds in terms of diversity and density. The area deserves to be considered as a viable avian habitat wetland, he added.

Similarly, Dadri is the only place, which harvests rainwater from the surrounding catchment, thereby ensuring groundwater recharge potential.

"In these circumstances, retention of this area in its natural state is of ecological and sustainable resource management importance," observed Khanduri.

The inspector general noted that under the present circumstances, assessment of the state and potential of the area was essential before consideration of issuing either notification under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010.

"However, both will require specific initiatives from the state government," he said.

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