Akshardham temple: Delhi
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Encroachment on Yamuna floodplain
Temple’s structure not on floodplain: NGT/ 2019
The National Green Tribunal said there was no error in the environmental clearance granted to the expanded structure of the Akshardham temple and it did not form part of the Yamuna floodplain.
Holding that the temple management was not liable to any fine, a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel referred to a Supreme Court judgment, which said that the area does not form part of the floodplain.
“We allow this application and hold that there is no ground to interfere with the grant of impugned EC given by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA),” the bench said. The green court said there is also no reason why any deposit should be required unless there is any violation.
“Thus, in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court and expert committee report accepted by this tribunal, there is no error in impugned EC granted by SEIAA,” the bench said.
The tribunal had earlier directed the Centre to submit a status report on a plea filed by the Akshardham temple management seeking compliance of the tribunal’s 2016 order asking a committee to decide whether the expanded structure fell within the Yamuna floodplain.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the ministry of jal shakti to furnish the status report in the matter before Monday by an e-mail. The green panel had in 2015 quashed two office memoranda of the environment ministry dealing with the issue of clearances for major and minor projects.
The Times of India, Jul 08 2015
Cancels office memorandum that allowed environmental clearance
NGT puts question mark over Akshardham expansion nod
An order by the National Green Tribunal pronounced could have grave repercussions for the Akshardham Temple. Manoj Mishra, an environmentalist who has been challenging the alleged unauthorized expansion of the temple complex located on the Yamuna floodplains, had filed an application against office memorandums issued by the ministry of environment and forests. These made it possible to apply for environmental clearance after construction had already been started. The green tribunal has quashed these memorandums, making all clearances given on their basis ineffective and the projects cleared illegal.
The Akshardham Temple complex had allegedly used one of these memorandums to get a “post facto“ clearance for expanding its complex on a proposed built-up area of 25,490 sq metres. Mishra challenged the memorandum in another petition, claiming that it was defeating the provisions of the environment impact assessment authority (EIA) notification 2006.
He asked what's the point in applying for an environmental clearance when the damage to the environment is already done.
Meanwhile, SP Muthuraman, a concerned citizen from Tirunelveli, filed a similar petition against another office memorandum, raising the same concern of how environmental implications of a project should not be assessed after construction has begun.
Several projects that had used these office memorandums to receive environmen tal clearance had intervened in the case as it could impac them. Almost all the projects that impleaded before the tri bunal were building or con struction projects from Tami Nadu. NGT slapped a fine or an “environmental compensation“, ranging from Rs 1.8 crore to Rs 36 crore (5% of project value), on seven projects that had intervened. It has also set up an expert committee to look into these violations for more irregularities.
“All the directions given in the case of the TN projects that intervened may be applicable to the Akshardham Temple as well. For instance, NGT has approved delisting of projects in TN that got clearance after starting construction. The expansion in the Akshardham temple complex could also be declared illegal,“ said advocate Rahul Chaudhary who is representing Mishra.
Mishra's other application which is against the expansion and the fact that it is an encroachment on the floodplains will be heard on July 10 when NGT is likely to give specific directions on violations by the temple authorities.
“We are happy with the judgement. It lays bare the fact that the environment ministry has been very casual about the matter of environmental clearance. The detailed and wonderfully drafted judgement is a wake-up call for the environment ministry ,“ said Mishra reacting to the judgement that runs into 200 pages.
In case of Akshardham, while thre construction allegedly started in 2011, EC was granted by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in July 2013.
Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan and many other environmental organizations have said the Akshardham Temple, Commonwealth Games Village and several other concrete structures are encroachments on the floodplains that can increase the risk of flooding massively .“These constructions have narrowed the river channel.This increased the risk of flooding and compromised the groundwater recharge capacity in the river zone,“ Mishra said. While the CWG Village got an EC clearance, when Akshardham came up, there was no such need under the law.But its expansion was covered by the EIA notification of 2006.
Year- wise developments
July 2015: Fined for expansion without clearance
The Times of India, Jul 11 2015
GREEN LAWS - Akshardham fined for expansion without clearance
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in July 2015 slapped a fine on Akshardham temple, amounting to 5% of the property value, for not seeking environmental clearance before expanding its building complex. Lawyers claim the fine may run into a few crores. Akshardham temple had allegedly used an office memorandum (OM) issued by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) in 2013 that made it possible to seek envi ronmental clearance even after construction had started. On July 8, NGT in its judgment to applications filed by Delhi-based environmentalist Manoj Mishra and Tamil Nadu-based SP Muthuraman quashed OMs by MoEF that allowed “post-facto“ environmental clearances.
Akshardham had allegedly started constructing a part of the building complex in 2011 over a proposed built-up area of 25,490 square metres, but got environmental clearance from the State Environment Impact Authority (SEIAA) in 2013 when the structure was almost ready . “In view of the judgment of the larger bench of the tribu nal in the case of SP Muthuraman Vs Union of India and Ors, wherein office memorandums have been quashed, some of the issues arising in the present application as well would stand squarely covered by that judgment,“ the NGT bench said in its order.
The bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, on Friday directed that a principal committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, ministry of water resources, look into whether Akshardham has encroached on the floodplains.“The committee shall submit a report to the tribunal within three months from today . The report would be placed before the Tribunal for further order and directions,“ it added.
Meanwhile, Akshardham lawyer Neelam Rathore said temple authorities will file a review petition against the order next week. “When the expansion was made, construction projects were not covered by environment impact assessment notification,“ she said, claiming the property value of the expansion was only Rs 10 crore when the EC was granted.
Mishra had filed an application against the OMs as “there is no point in applying for clearance when the damage to the environment is already done.“