The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has threatened to prosecute the Uttar Pradesh irrigation secretary for contempt of court, for violating a stay order of the tribunal and allowing a section of the Hindon River bed to be filled with mud.
The river flows through Ghaziabad near Delhi.
As the case was being heard by the tribunal Feb 15, the NGT, chaired by justice Swatantra Kumar, asked the state's principal secretary, irrigation, Deepak Singhal why he should not be charged with contempt for violation of an affidavit in which he had stated that a pontoon bridge across the Hindon was built for 50 metre length, when the river's width was stated as 100 metres.
The court asked what had happened to the other 50-metre width of the river. It was obvious, the court held, that the rest of the river bed was filled with mud, even though such action had been stayed by the NGT on April 18, 2012.
Even as the stay order was still in force, the irrigation department erected the pontoon bridge May 2012.
Given the harsh comments from the green tribunal, the principal secretary visited the site and conducted lengthy deliberations with Ghaziabad Development Authority officials.
The irrigation department constructed a third bridge at Karhera over the Hindon, allegedly diverting water flow of the river from east to west.
Environmentalists have been protesting the diversion of river water.
The agency that had taken up the construction work went ahead with the work despite the stay order of the tribunal.
Environmentalist Vikrant Sharma of NGO Jal Biradari then filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India, which diverted the case to the National Green Tribunal.
Sharma alleged that the construction agency and the irrigation department of Uttar Pradesh diverted water flow of the river from its natural course towards Hindon Air Force station, endangering even the air base.
In December last, Rajendra Singh, renowned for winning the Magsaysay award in 2001 for conservation of water resources in Alwar, Rajasthan, joined the residents of Ghaziabad who staged a dharna at the site of the third proposed Hindon bridge.
The irrigation department ignored protests and continued the construction work.
"If NGT orders destruction of the pontoon bridge, we shall destroy it. The irrigation department is the construction agency. We shall discuss the matter with them and act accordingly," Indu Shekhar Singh, executive engineer on the construction project, said.