The Uttarakhand government’s plan to regularise more than 500 slums in the state ahead of the 2017 assembly polls may hit a roadblock after the National Green Tribunal recently asked the state to conduct the floodplain zoning of the Ganga River.
At least 37% of the state’s 582 slum areas are located next to streams or rivers, states a report of the Uttarakhand slum reforms committee released earlier this year. Regularisation of a large number of slums that are located along the banks of the Ganga and its tributaries is likely to pose a legal tangle for the Congress-led state government.
Earlier this month, the green panel asked the state government to map the Ganga’s floodplain, which comprises areas adjacent to the river that are likely to get flooded in case of high water discharge. The government has to file compliance report in the matter by October.
Of the 7.7 lakh slum dwellers in the state, at least 2.5 lakh people reside in slums on the banks of rivers or seasonal streams.
In July, the state assembly passed the legislation to regularise slums that were set up before March 2016, under which land ownership rights will be provided to slum dwellers at their current locations.
Experts said the state government’s move to regularise slums in the floodplains, is likely to cause a legal roadblock in the light of the NGT’s order.
“Elections are less than six months away, which is why the state government is rushing with the process. But regularising slums on the riverbeds or floodplains would be in contradiction with the green tribunal’s mandate as it will prove detrimental to the natural flow of the river,” retired senior bureaucrat SS Pangtey told HT.
Abhijay Negi of Making a Difference by Being the Difference said the government’s move to regularise slums on riverbeds would be “patently illegal” in wake of the NGT’s order.
“Once a floodplain is earmarked, any habitation cannot be allowed on it. The NGT took cognizance of the spoiling of the Yamuna’s floodplain in Delhi earlier this year and it may take a similar note of the government’s slum regularisation plan,” said Negi, who has pursued an RTI battle to save the dying streams of Dehradun, Rispana and Bindal that have been encroached upon by slum dwellers.
Uttarakhand slum reforms committee chairman and Rajpur legislator Rajkumar, who goes by the first name, said the regularisation of slums located next to riverbeds will be executed after “duly studying” the green tribunal’s orders.
“We will try to rehabilitate slums that are located in extremely sensitive or flood-prone areas around riverbeds,” he told HT. “Expert opinion will also be sought in the matter regarding the green panel’s directive.”