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NGT orders stay on Draft Shimla Development Plan 2041

  • Published
    20th May, 2022
Context

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently asked the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Department to put on hold the Draft Development Plan, Shimla Planning Area 2041.

About

About the Plan:

  • The plan proposes to permit construction of more floors, new constructions in core area, constructions in green area, development in sinking and sliding area in violation of the NGT orders.
  • The Draft Development Plan-Shimla Planning Area 2041(published February 2022) read: There is an urgent need of a development plan for Shimla in order to revive the growth regulators with the vision for a well-regulated and planned Shimla and its peri-urban areas, best capturing the urbanisation trend and aspiration of the city and its fringes.
  • The Development Plan was prepared under the AMRUT sub-scheme of the Government of India by the Town and Country Planning Department, Himachal Pradesh.

The  issue:

  • An application had been filed in the NGT in April, 2022 against the draft development plan on the ground that such a plan is contrary to the sustainable development principle and destructive of environment and public safety.
  • Tha application highlighted the NGT November 2017 judgement.
  • Interestingly the Draft Development Plan said that "town planning does not come under the purview of the NGT," and that the orders of the National Green Tribunal on "height restriction in Shimla Planning Area is a dent on meeting the future urbanisation challenges."
  • However, the Tribunal directed that the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Department should not proceed from taking any further step in pursuance of the Draft Development Plan 2041.

NGT november 2017 Judgement:

  • It warned that if unplanned and indiscriminate development was allowed, there would be “irreparable loss and damage to the environment, ecology and natural resources on one hand and inevitable disaster on the other”.
  • To prevent such untoward disasters, the court had prohibited new construction of any kind (residential, institutional and commercial) in any part of the core and green / forest areas “as defined under the various notifications issued under the Interim Development Plan as well by the State Government."
  • The order also said that even beyond the core and forest areas and the areas falling under the authorities of the Shimla Planning Area - construction would be permitted strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, Development Plan and the municipal laws in force.
  • Construction is not be permitted beyond two storeys plus attic floor.

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • Objective: for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.

Salient features:

  • The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  • It will be relatively easier (as opposed to approaching a court) for conservation groups to present facts and issues before the NGT, including pointing out technical flaws in a project, or proposing alternatives that could minimize environmental damage but which have not been considered.
  • While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles. However, it must be noted that if the NGT holds that a claim is false, it can impose costs including lost benefits due to any interim injunction.
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