The National Highways Authority of India assigned Kiratpur Ner Chowk Expressway Ltd (KNCEL) promoted by the IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd (ITNL) on 16th March 2012 to undertake four laning of Kiratpur to Ner-Chowk section of NH21 from km.73200 to km 186500 on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis in the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The project road starts from Kiratpur Bypass and ends at Ner Chowk Bypass. The existing length is approximately 113300 kms and the redesigned length is approximately 84380 kms. The project mainly covers Rupnagar district of Punjab and Mandi and Bilaspur Districts of Himachal Pradesh.
Though there are several violations but the present fact finding team was constituted in order to assess the present situation of muck dumping in Bilaspur and Mandi Districts of Himachal Pradesh. The IL&FS has dumped most of the muck in the river Sutlej and other water bodies which forms the life line of the people of those areas. Several complaints have been filed against IL&FS for dumping the muck without complying with the dumping plan. The complaint was further taken to the National Green Tribunal which thereafter constituted a committee to investigate into the matter and come up with its report. The National Green Tribunal gave the following order in July 2016:
“The project can carry on its activity, subject to strict supervision of the Committee already constituted by the Tribunal. The State of H.P shall ensure that there is no violation of Environmental Clearance… In the event of default the illegal and unauthorized dumping, particularly near the water body including the river Satlej would lead to stoppage of work.”
The NGT formed the committee in November 2015. The first report dated 26.12.2015 submitted by the Committee had listed thirty-five dumping sites. The next report was submitted on 17/12/16 which inspected and reported about 24 sites, including a new one. The report stated.
“The committee observed during inspection that project authorities (M/s ILFS Infra Ltd.) has though taken requisite stabilization works (muck as well as slope) at some of the muck dumping sites as pointed out by the committee during joint inspection carried out during 9-12-2015 to 12-12-2015 but at number of sites (as detailed at Annexure “A”), the desired action is yet to be taken. Committee feels that preparation and implementation of a ‘Time Bound Action Plan’ for proper stabilization of muck dumping sites having both engineering and biological measures is necessary to contain environmental pollution arising out due to non-stabilization of these sites.”
It is pertinent to note that the project proponent had undertaken in December 2015 before the National Green Tribunal that within four weeks all the necessary remedial measures would be undertaken. But even after a complete year the report submitted by the constituted committee clearly states that the project proponent failed to take any remedial actions. The committee conducted another joint inspection in April 2017 and submitted its report which stated,
“Out of remaining 24 (twenty-four) approved muck dumping sites, slope stabilization and reclamation is required to be done at 9 (nine) sites while no further action is required at 15 (fifteen) sites. Project Proponent (M/s IL&FS ECCL) should invariably complete slope stabilization and reclamation at these 9 (nine) sites during the ensuing monsoon.”
The fact finding team visited all the twenty-four muck dumping sites across Bilaspur and Mandi districts and scrutinized the present situation. The last report invariably concluded that out of 24 sites only 9 sites need action. But the ground situation does not comply with the report of the committee.
In the Environmental and Social Due Diligence Report prepared by the India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited for the Asian Development Bank which was published in February 2015,it is clearly stated that “ITNL shall make its own arrangements for quarrying and disposal of surplus materials and fulfill the environmental and other requirements under the applicable laws and permits at its (ITNL) own cost and expense.” [Environmental and Social Due Diligence Report, ADB. February 2015.] It further states that, “The stacked muck at dumping yards will be reutilized, after construction of retaining wall/ gabion wall/approaches of bridges for filling purpose and construction of embankment” The report gives an estimate of the amount of muck generated:
|District||Muck generated*||Muck used||Muck dumped at dumping yard|
*Quantity measured in (cum) till 16th December 2014
The above numbers are from year 2014 and the project has significantly progressed since then. The present day condition is much worse than this and the amount of muck which has been generated is much higher.
Analyzing the present situation at the dumping sites
The Due Diligence Report of the ADB very distinctly states that, “The muck generated from the alignment of four laning project are either being utilized forconstruction of embankment or dumped/stacked at dumping yards/sites and not thrown anywhereelse.”[Environmental and Social Due Diligence Report, ADB. February 2015.] This proclamation that the muck is being utilized for construction of embankment is completely baseless as huge quantity of muck has been found in all the sites and even sites which are illegal. It has already been shown that how sites which are not supposed to be sites, that is, forest land is also being used for dumping muck. This is a gross violation which the project proponent is committing. The sites which were to be used for dumping are in extremely deplorable conditions. In most of the sites there are no walls and even where there are walls, the height of the wall is so low that it cannot contain the overarching quantity of muck thereby leading the muck to fall into the river Sutlej and other water bodies. It can be easily understood that the walls which have been built have been built due to the pressure built by the local groups who have resisted this kind of dumping activity. The walls have been built just on the muck and therefore the walls are of no use at all.
The matter is of high concern as the muck is falling into the river Sutlej and also the other water bodies. In many places the water bodies have been blocked due to the muck deposition. There is huge deposition of muck in the Sutlej River which is thereby affecting fishing. The water line and the bank of the river is also shifting in many places due to muck deposition in the river. The river forms an important source of livelihood for many people in the area. Fishermen are not being able to get as much income as before as the muck is affecting the water creatures. Boating is also affected as the water line is shifting. It is being difficult for the daily commuters who travel from one bank to the other of the river.
The field visit of three days to these dumping sites confirms the huge violation of the environment that the project proponent is committing. It can be stated with much conviction that the muck is not being used as has been mentioned in the due diligence report. It was mentioned that roads would be constructed with the muck that is generated. There are no roads to these sites. Infact in some areas the project has destroyed the existing roads. Excessive muck and dust have made it difficult for the local people. It is even more dangerous for children. The amount of dust which is generated from the muck might harm the existing health conditions of the local people. Thus the muck deposition has affected the lives of the people in a very negative way. Therefore it is the responsibility of the project proponent to take immediate actions in the dumping areas and protect the rivers and other water bodies as has also been directed by the National Green Tribunal. It is also the responsibility of the Government of Himachal Pradesh to take cognizance of the violations committed by the company and take appropriate steps against further those violations.