Agra: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday issued notices to the union Environment and Water Resources ministries, the Uttar Pradesh government and other agencies on a petition filed by a green activist objecting to the river front development and beautification project on the flood plains along the heritage ghats in Vrindavan.
The matter has been posted for hearing on November 17, Rahul Choudhary, advocate for the petitioner said. The notices were also sent to the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation department, state Jal Nigam, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority and local bodies of Mathura district.
The petition states how the agencies, instead of complying with the earlier orders of the Tribunal (of demolishing illegal structures on the flood plain), went ahead and brazenly flouted the directions.
Akash Vashisht, the petitioner, said “Vrindavan has more than 32 ghats. However most are in a dilapidated state. The UP government without mandatory permissions went ahead with executing a project for expansion, renovation and beautification of the river front, threatening heritage ghats. The work involves construction of new river front area of 2 km in length and extension of Keshi Ghat by 750 metres into the river’s flood-plains.” The Allahabad High Court already stayed the project on October 21.
Construction work on the flood-plains of Yamuna began a month ago, despite protests from activists who wanted the Uttar Pradesh government to seek NOCs from concerned departments and the National Green Tribunal. “We complained to the Archaeological Survey of India which has clear guidelines on starting construction close to heritage and protected structures. The Agra circle of ASI registered an FIR against the state government departments, but the work did not stop,” explained Shravan Kumar Singh, vice president of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
“When we failed to persuade the district administration not to go ahead with the ‘suicidal’ project which was similar to the controversial Taj Heritage Corridor project which brought down the Mayawati government in 2003, a petition was filed in the Allahabad High Court by the Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance,” Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of the Friends of Vrindavan, said.
The petitioner, Madhu Mangal Shukla, said without clearances and arbitrarily without consulting stake holders, and holding of the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment public hearing, the state irrigation department began dismantling the structures and laying huge pipelines for sewer and constructing a platform much like the notorious Taj Corridor.
Green activists fear that letting the project continue without environmental impact and social impact assessment will result in irreversible damage to the ecology and heritage of Vrindavan.