MP encroachers diverting river to protect buildings

  • Neeraj Santoshi, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Jul 02, 2015 17:13 IST

Some unidentified people are trying to change a river’s course to circumvent a construction ban in one of Bhopal’s most eco-sensitive zones. They are trying to change the course by dumping hundreds of tonnes of rocks and soil on its riverbed.

The administration is currently mapping the Kaliasot river and demarcating a 33-metre green belt under the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which acted on a petition filed by an environmental activist.

Ahead of a hearing in the case on July 6, HT found tonnes of rock and soil dumped on the riverbed and banks by unidentified people, apparently in an attempt to stretch the green belt away from several housing projects in the area.

The 36-km-long Kaliasot river, a tributary of the Betwa, has come under severe encroachment over the last few years after the administration allowed housing projects near it to lessen the burden on the burgeoning city.

The NGT had earlier directed the state government to remove encroachments from the 33-metre green belt on both sides of the river and its riverbed.

Environmentalist Subash Pandey said that builders and other people are deliberately dumping rock and soil to change the river’s course and escape the NGT’s wrath.

Some people even tried to intimidate HT correspondent and the petitioner, questioning what business they had there.

Some other residents alleged that the demarcation work was not being carried out scientifically.

Anil Goyal, whose house has been marked within the greenbelt at Sarvadharma Colony, claimed that authorities erected a stone slab marking the boundary of the river just in front of his house, which he said was far from river.

However, Subash Pandey maintained that there were around 20 colonies and housing projects that have come up along the Kaliasot river.

“Prima facie around 18 housing colonies/projects have encroached upon the green belt or river bed of the Kaliasot river. Now, some people are trying to change the greenbelt by changing the river’s course. This is not possible without the connivance of officials. As the demarcation work is being carried out these days, some officials might be trying to save some encroachers from imminent action,” Pandey alleged.

Pradeep Pandey, a retired assistant engineer from the irrigation department, who was posted during the construction of Kaliasot dam listed the dangers of attempts to change the river course.

“This river is basically a channel for the overflowing flood waters of the Kaliasot dam. When the water level rises and the dam gates are open, the blockades in the river will prove disastrous,” Pandey said.

In 2006, there was a flood and Kaliasot dam gates were opened. “If such a situation arises again and there are major obstructions downstream, there will be floods in the residential areas,” he said.

Local builder Vipin Chouhan said that the government should complete the process of demarcation of the river as soon as possible so that there was clarity and transparency. “Whatever government wants to do, they should do it fast,” he said.

During the last hearing in the case on May 25, NGT had directed the district administration to carry out the demarcation work of the river bank from the city end within 30 days and complete the overall survey within the next 30 days.

NGT had also directed that completion certificates should not be issued to builders whose projects are along the bank of the river and who are yet to set up sewerage treatment plants.

Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Maya Awasthi, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, said they were aware of the dumping of rock and soil, but added it would not have any effect on the demarcation work.

“The material they have put there is fresh, and it is obvious that it has been done recently as some small trees have also been planted there, but they have wilted away. I have informed the Bhopal Municipal Corporation and other senior officials concerned about this brazen act. The protection of the river, its riverbed and the green belt is the joint responsibility of many departments,” she said.

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