The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned construction of permanent nature on the floodplain of the Mahanadi river till further orders.
The green court was hearing a plea which called the Baliyatra River Front Improvement (BRFI) project, under which the constrution was being carried out, an attempt to monetise the river bed for commercial purposes which will reduce the water-retaining capacity of the river at Jobra Barrage at Cuttack and causing damage to the environment and the riverine ecosystem.
“No construction of permanent nature will be allowed in the flood plain in question pending further order,” said the order issued by the bench of NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel.
The petition pointed out that the works in the river bed will also affect the supply of drinking water and obstruct dredging which is necessary. This will also add to the floods in the city, it added.
During the hearing, Counsel for the applicant referred to the forming of an NGT-assigned panel on December 15, 2020, in which it directed the committee to consider the issue and lay down norms to ensure that the proposal of the Odisha State for construction of the medical college and riverfront development takes place in accordance with the law, without damage to the flood plains of the Rivers.
Flood plain zones need to be identified and demarcated in light of such norms. The Committee may identify the extent of floodplain zone/active floodplain zone from the edge of the river. CPCB will be the nodal agency for compliance, the counsel said highlighting the earlier order.
On October 4, 2021, as per the direction of NGT, the Central Pollution Contol Board has filed an affidavit which sanctioned a project called “Floodplain Zoning Study for the Identified Stretches of Mahanadi River Basin” for mapping of the river using satellite imageries, digital elevation maps, land use and a land cover map showing habitation, flood frequency analysis and demarcation of flood plain zones from the edge of the river under an expert committee.
The study found that the flood of 25 year return period is expected to affect about 38 villages in and around the Cuttack city from the Munduli barrage to the downstream of Jobra barrage.The applicant submitted that while the report considers engineering aspects in light of guidelines issued by the National Disaster Management Authority, it does not consider ecological and hydrological aspects in terms of the earlier NGT order.
However, the NGT order dated February 7, said: “We do not see any reason not to accept the suggestion for such further study to consider appropriate directions in the interest of environment” while directing a seven-member expert panel to undertake a detailed study on the steps required for protecting the flood plain zone and the environment within three months by April 30.
Further hearing in the matter will be held on May 23.