The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to review the ongoing “sheet piling” work on the Yamuna riverfront in the temple town of Vrindavan. A bench headed by acting chairperson Justice U D Salvi said that the work carried out by the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department would be subject to the review by NMCG. The review would be conducted within three months. Sheet piling involves interlocking sheets of metal which are driven using excavators or special vibration machines to form retaining walls during construction. “The work carried out and undertaken by the respondent nos. 3 (UP) and 4 (Irrigation Department) shall be subject to the review done by the NMCG and the respondents shall not claim any equity in that regard and remove the same, if required by NMCG to do so at their cost and expenses. “NMCG shall review the said work carried out and undertaken by the respondent nos. 3 and 4 along the ghats of Mathura and Vrindavan as aforesaid without being influenced by any of the observations made by us within three months,” the bench, also comprising expert member Nagin Nanda, said. The tribunal said that the construction work has not been completed and it would be “prudent” to have the entire project reviewed by the NMCG keeping in mind the principles of “sustainable development and precautionary principle”.
The Uttar Pradesh government, under the Vrindavan rejuvenation project, has proposed “expansion, renovation and beautification” work on three-kilometre riverfront from Kesi Ghat to downstream of the Yamuna river. The project, which proposes expansion of Kesi ghat by 750 metres into the river floodplain, also involves a mechanism to clean tributaries entering the river and construct interceptor drains to counter overflow of sewer into the river. The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by nature enthusiast Akash Vashishtha, who claimed that reclamation of the eco-sensitive Yamuna floodplain is being carried out in gross violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the provisions of the EIA Notification of 2006. The plea, filed through advocate Rahul Choudhary, had contended that the project proponent was encroaching right into the river floodplain in order to create space for a new ghat and an interceptor pipeline. This expansion was taking place over and above the already encroached land consisting of illegal colonies and other construction projects. “Direct the concerned respondents to restore the river bed and floodplain of Yamuna and its ghats after removing the pipeline and any other construction done, and demolition and removal of 21 colonies identified by Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority as illegal,” the plea had said.