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Green court tells DDA to stop farming on Yamuna floodplains by 2020

In February this year, the NGT committee — led by Shailaja Chandra and BS Sajwan — ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to take up separate studies after Hindustan Times published a report on ‘toxic vegetables’ grown on the river’s floodplains.

delhi Updated: Sep 11, 2019 22:44 IST

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
DDA has been asked to restore the farmlands in the Yamuna floodplains into biodiversity parks.
DDA has been asked to restore the farmlands in the Yamuna floodplains into biodiversity parks. (HT FILE)
         

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the Delhi Development Authority to ensure that farming of fruit and vegetables on the Yamuna floodplains is stopped, failing which the land-owning agency will be penalised from April 2020.

The green panel, reiterating the ban on crop cultivation on the floodplains, asked the DDA to restore the area into biodiversity parks.

“The DDA must take re-possession of the floodplains in case of encroachments within three months and fence such areas and convert them into biodiversity parks, as per the action plan proposed by them previously,” the panel said in its order.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel warned that the DDA will be liable to pay Rs 5 lakh per month till compliance from April 1, 2020, if it failed to meet its directive. The fine may be recovered from erring officers and deposited with the CPCB for restoration of environment.

The NGT-appointed Yamuna pollution monitoring committee will look into the compliance of the directions, the bench said.

In February this year, the NGT committee — led by Shailaja Chandra and BS Sajwan — ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to take up separate studies after Hindustan Times published a report on ‘toxic vegetables’ grown on the river’s floodplains on February 4, 2019.

In July, the NEERI submitted its report saying that it had found high doses of lead in vegetables. In August, the CPCB report revealed that excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides by farmers on the Yamuna’s floodplains is contributing to poisoning the Yamuna’s water, its floodplains and groundwater.

The tribunal also directed the DDA to complete the work of installing CCTVs to keep the area secure from further encroachments. “The UP Irrigation Department shall give permission to DDA for execution of CCTV related work within one month of the receipt of such request,” it said.

Besides, the bench asked the DDA to regulate illegal dumping of ‘malba’ (debris) and levy fines wherever violations are found. An action taken report of the same is to be submitted to the monitoring committee.

It further said DDA, Delhi, UP and Haryana governments will ensure no pooja material is thrown into the river, except at designated sites.

Also, the tribunal asked the transports departments of Delhi, UP and Haryana governments to enforce the ‘polluter pays principle’ so that no debris is dumped on the floodplains. The DDA has been asked to submit an action plan in this regard within one month from the date of order.

The panel has asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to submit monthly reports on the quality of water to the monitoring committee.

“The reports by DPCC must also contain data on faecal coliform. The samples may get analysed either by CPCB laboratory or other accredited laboratory. Such reports must be placed on the websites of DPCC and CPCB,” the tribunal said.

In case of failure to comply with this direction, the DPCC will be liable to pay environment compensation of Rs 2 lakh per month to CPCB for restoration of environment with effect from October, 1 2019.

DPCC was also directed to continue with the survey and monitoring of industries both in confirming and non-confirming areas and file a report of action take every three months. In case of non-compliance, Delhi government shall be liable to pay Rs. 5 lakh per month from January 1, 2020.

According to experts, Wednesday’s order will go a long way to save the Yamuna from toxic materials flowing into it.

Manoj Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said, “Despite directions, farmers are still engaging in intensive agriculture at the floodplains using fertilizers and other toxic materials, which harm the river. Besides, there is a Supreme Court order which said farmers in Delhi’s floodplains could not continue farming here after December 2019. It is an important order, which I hope will gradually change this situation.”

“On DJB’s own admission, although entire East Delhi is sewered, only about 60% households have taken sewer connections. In colonies like West Jyoti Nagar, Shahdara, which were notified as sewered colonies in 2015, only 11.5% have taken the sewer connections,” the panel said.

First Published: Sep 11, 2019 22:15 IST