NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal Friday quashed the environmental clearance (EC) granted to a high-rise luxury project by Godrej Properties Limited and Wonder Projects Development Private Limited in Bengaluru and directed its immediate demolition.
The green panel also imposed a penalty of Rs 31 crore on the project proponent and said the amount shall be used for demolition of the constructions, restoration of the area to the original position, rejuvenation and reforestation of the Kaikondarahalli lake and its surrounding area.
A bench headed by by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)which allowed construction/alteration of Storm Water Drain passing through the project site illegally.
“EC dated January 10, 2018 is quashed”, the bench said.
The order came on a petition filed by Bengaluru resident H P Rajanna against the project, Godrej Reflections, being built at Kasavanahalli village in Varthur Hobli in Battleground Urban district.
Reacting on the judgement, Godrej Properties spokesperson said the NGT order has not taken into consideration the complete assertions and argument.
“It has been brought to our notice that the NGT has passed an adverse order concerning one of our project in Bengaluru. The order has not taken into consideration the complete assertions and argument provided by us and we remain confident of our merits and compliances in the case.
“We reiterate that as a responsible corporate, we follow all concerned regulations and are confident of our compliance in this project. We are in the process of challenging the said order,” Godrej Properties spokesperson said.
This is the second time NGT has quashed the EC.
The Supreme Court had earlier set aside the NGT order quashing the environmental clearance granted to the project.
Noting that the construction raised by project proponent commenced even before grant of Consent to Establish by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and in violation of conditions of EC, the NGT Friday directed that the constructions made on site shall be demolished immediately.
“We impose compensation for damage to environment as 10 per cent of the cost of project. The cost of project mentioned in the application submitted for grant of EC was Rs 310 crores, hence project proponent is directed to pay Rs 31 crores,” the green panel said.
This amount shall be used for demolition of the constructions, restoration of the area to the original position, rejuvenation and reforestation etc. of the Kaikondarahalli lake and its surrounding area, the bench said.
The tribunal said the penalty shall be utilised by preparing a restoration plan by the said authority with the assistance of the BBMP, KSPCB and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Restoration plan shall be executed by State Wetland Authority and BBMP which may also be overseen by KSPCB and CPCB, it said.
The restoration plan be prepared within two months and executed within one year, the NGT said while making it clear that if any amount remains available after undertaking the restoration work, the same will be utilised by the Wetland Authority for maintenance and beautification of the lakes in question.
If the amount is found to be deficient, the deficiency will be made up by BBMP. If any question remains unresolved, but in the authorities, the National Wetland Authority is directed to resolve the same, the bench said.
The tribunal said the confidence of the project proponent in proceeding ahead at different levels without caring for Statuary Provisions, Procedures and Environmental Laws, supported by some of the statutory authorities is evident by the conduct of senior officers of various departments who were appointed members of the Committee by Tribunal and Environment Ministry, yet they defied the same.
It appears that in a concerted way, some officials have acted to somehow justify patent illegality and bold defiance of law on the part of project proponent.
“Clearly, there is an evident lack of bonafide on the part of the officials and this conduct deserves to be strongly condemned. We will request Secretary, MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forest) to look into the matter and take appropriate action against such erring officials,” the bench said.
The tribunal said the committee which made inspections thrice and submitted report is not the one which was constituted by it and the Environment Ministry.
It said the officials, who were actually appointed members, chose on their own to send their sub-ordinates or officers lower in rank and they are signatories to the report.
“No such power was given to the officers, made members of the Committee, to delegate to anyone else. This action on the part of such members is wholly unwarranted, unauthorised and illegal.
“In fact, they stand in flagrant defiance of order of Tribunal by permitting such persons to prepare report and sign it though not authorized to do so and could not have done it,” the bench said.
The NGT said that it has no hesitation in holding that change in the Committee by the members appointed by this tribunal is wholly illegal and unauthorised.
The top court had asked the NGT to reconsider the matter and said no construction shall be put up in the meanwhile.
The green panel had ruled that the construction would fall within the buffer zone of the Kaikondrahalli lake and therefore is violative of the zoning laws.