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( 15 Mar 2019)
NGT slams MoEF for delay in report prepared by states on natural conservation zones

The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for delay in informing it whether sub-regional plans, prepared by states for protection of natural conservation zones (NCZs), were consistent with the regional plan prepared by the National Capital Region Planning Board.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the direction of the tribunal had not been carried out by the MoEF, without any valid reason.

The green panel also directed the Inspector General of Forests, MoEF dealing with the matter to remain present in person with the compliance report on the next date of hearing, failing which coercive action will be initiated.

"Only excuse given on behalf of the MoEF by way of an action taken report filed on February 25 is that response of the Delhi government and the Uttar Pradesh government was still awaited. It is not clear as to what steps have been taken in the last seven months for ensuring such response," the bench, also comprising Justices S P Wangdi and K Ramakrishnan, said.

The NGT said that if the report was not being furnished by the states, sufficient time was available to ask the chief secretaries of the these states to do the needful.

"MoEF was not expected to be just silent. We, thus, find the response to be not a responsible one and disapprove such attitude," the bench said while posting the matter for consideration of the compliance report on April 12.

The tribunal had on August 7 last year noted that some of the states had not completed the work of delineation of NCZ and directed preparation of such plans and a joint committee headed by the MoEF to examine the question whether the sub-regional plans are consistent with the regional plan prepared by NCRPB.

Earlier, in an affidavit filed before the tribunal, the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) had submitted that there was shrinkage in NCZs such as forests, water bodies and waste lands in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

It has said that NCRPRB after perusing the variations shown in analysis done by the National Remote Sensing Centre immediately acted upon the observations and sent letters to participating states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi and sought response for such shrinkage.

According to the NCRPB, the shrinkage of NCZ in Haryana sub-region is 25.97 per cent, 15.43 per cent in NCT of Delhi, 43.88 per cent in Uttar Pradesh sub-region and 11.18 per cent in Rajasthan sub-region.

The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by the Legal Aid Committee National Green Tribunal Bar Association against the alarming rate of depletion of NCZs in NCR.

It had sought directions to check alleged diversion of the area marked as NCZ by the National Capital Region Planning Board in the regional plan.

The plea had alleged that states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan had diverted the NCZ area in violation of the original plan while preparing sub-regional plans and such diversion would adversely affect the environment.