Saturday, August 10, 2013

Environment, Green Tribunal & Real Estate!

The grandest of all laws is the law of progressive development. Under it, in the wide sweep of things, men grow wiser as they grow older, & societies better… Christian Bovee.

Some where we are deviating from the wise philosopher writer’s words & if we read the recent news about some rulings by Green Tribunal & the situation it has created or will create. Before analyzing that, it’s necessary for many to understand what’s Green Tribunal? As its pretty recent development; its formed by Environment Ministry & to ensure the environment balance remains while we develop or progress on every front of the life.
To those who are not aware, here is some brief information about the green tribunal. The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 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. The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
 The Tribunal's dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same. Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible. New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other 4 place of sitting of the Tribunal. In short any act may it be of Govt or private entity, where any forum, individual feels that its threat to the surrounding environment, he can file his petition against the same in National Green tribunal, under the above provision.
As I have repeatedly said, an act keeping in mind noble purpose or cause but as usual wrongly executed. Keeping full respect for the purpose & jurisdiction of the Tribunal it’s high time that we deicide the priorities of our nation & then make the laws. As of now anybody is free to go to the Tribunal on thing which is related to the environment & under this definition where there is development there will be impact on environment is the fact. As you can’t build even a single room structure without causing impact or harming the environment is a truth. Again many will wonder how?

Take any open land which may be barren yet it has its own life cycle with, may it be of insects like ants or termite & lizards along with some vegetation on it. It’s bound to get disturbed by any human activity like construction. Or take a river flowing with water, it has many water species of animals ranging from fish to snakes & also it supports many plants & weeds. And whenever we are doing activity like sand digging we are bound to disturb this chain. Then leave apart mining but to get metal i.e. khadi which is inherent part of concrete, we have to break the hills or mountains. As these igneous rocks underneath these hills or mountains are the main sources of this metal/ khadi.
All around the nation forest lands are fast getting surrendered for homes, factories, mines & many other purposes of the life which are equally important for human life. Obliviously the NGO’s are going to bang the door of tribunal for rescuing the forests from such activities.

Consider the latest head lines regarding a case about road from river bed of Mula River in our Pune city, where a petition has been filed by NGO’s in Green tribunal about damaging the environment by this road. We won’t go in merits & demerits of the case as this is not the forum for doing so, but the Tribunal have suggested many changes about alignment as well construction of the roads such as level of the road. The authorities unofficially are saying the road is impossible if all these suggestions are to be accommodated. And at present the work of the said road is standstill; this was supposed to be a great relief to all the traffic jams along the Sinhagad road as this road would have been an alternate to Sinhagad road which is serving at its full capacity. And so are all other roads in the city & the situation isn’t different in many Metros.

About sand the tribunal has banned any sand extraction in all the country unless prior permissions has been obtained from environment committees or authorities & all around the country a battle is going on amongst the sand extractors popularly known as sand mafias & the govt officials. Question is not whether we support illegal sand excavation; neither is whether digging of sand is right or wrong for environment, the question I will ask what option we have got for sand? As even for crush sand we have to dig hills or mountains as it comes from the stone only. So today we are targeting river sand tomorrow we will have to protect hills & mountains but then what about the need of thousands of structures which the country needs for providing infrastructure to its billions of residents? From where we are going to get the concrete to build them? I think it’s this question which we should be asking & not to the tribunal but to the Govt who has formed the tribunal. Here no offence against any NGO or the Tribunal as its job of NGO’s to point out any damage happening or may happen in future to our environment & its job of the tribunal to decide the matter in front of them considering that threat. But then whose job it is to balance the development as well environment? Each day while travelling home to work & back, millions of people have to suffer traffic congestion & face air pollution, besides the financial loss due to fuel burning as well man hours lost in travelling! Whose job it is to provide proper public transport & facilitate common man’s life by not requiring using private vehicles, so as the existing roads will be enough for carrying the traffic & we need not have to encroach on hills or rivers for building more roads?

Similarly on one side we are talking about making home which is a basic & primary need as well right of a human, more affordable to all segments of the society. And on other side we are tightening the noose for making them by banning very basic materials like sand, cement & metal! We are  not working on creating alternate option for such materials extraction of which depends om natural resources. And then what’s the fault of millions who has to live in slums where no infrastructure is available for a human being & all this because we can’t provide them proper housing. Why don’t any NGO’s goes to tribunal to make them available proper shelter, as when we are concerned about shelter of some species of plants & animals getting disturbed then what about human beings?

I think it’s high time that we need to carve out a balance between our so called development & our environment so as the tribunal wouldn’t have to face load of cases on all aspects of life. Also the tribunal should urge the Govt to work out on solutions & not just ban this & halt that type judgments. As till we don’t come out with alternate arrangements all these judgments will lead to illegal activities is a fact. Here I am not dishonoring the tribunal but putting out the facts. As take as simple example as of sand excavation from river, why the so called mafia’s can dare to even try to kill a senior official who tries to stop their business? Simple, because there is demand for the sand! And who is demanding this sand & for what? Many will say it’s the builders; well & whose homes are being build & who are the buyers of these homes? The answer of such questions tells the story of the condition of our country & policies we make!

We are too short sighted & that’s the main reason of all our problems! We form tribunals like green tribunal & we think we have saved environment & our job is done! Unless we don’t understand the law of progressive development where we grow by considering all pros & cons, whatever green laws or tribunals we make it is not going to serve the purpose. And again it’s not only the Govt is at blame but every person who is part of this development may it be an engineer or an architect or even developer, we should keep this aspect of environment in our mind while planning or building any structure. Even the associations of the engineers & developers should promote R & D so as to find alternate materials for the conventional one. Let’s acknowledge this & act in accordance as then only we will be securing future of our generation next!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

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