The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has decided to constitute a joint committee that would submit a report on the issue of sand removal from the Pampa river within two months.
However, the Bench comprising Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta did not impose any stay on the removal of sand and silt from the river.
“Considering the fact that monsoon is approaching soon and the government may anticipate over flow of rivers due to rain during monsoon, we don’t want to stop the normal work of desilting of the rivers under the precautionary principle to avoid flood in the State,” said an order issued by the Bench after it took suo motu notice of The Hindu report “Forest dept told to permit sand removal from Pampa” published on May 30.
The controversy over the removal of sand from Triveni at Pampa escalated after the Forest Department issued an order countermanding the one issued by District Collector, Pathanamthitta, authorising the removal of sand. The Opposition had accused the government of having used flood preparedness as a cover to bypass the Forest Conservation Act.
The NGT-appointed joint committee will include a senior officer of the Regional Office, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), Bangalore; a senior officer not below the rank of Chief Conservator of Forest deputed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Head of Forest Force; Chief Wildlife Warden; District Collector, Pathanamthitta; a senior officer from Department of Mining and Geology; Member Secretary, State Disaster Management Authority, Kerala; and the Divisional Forest Officer, Pathanamthitta.
The committee has been asked to submit a factual and action taken report considering the seriousness of the issue and report, if there is any violation including [the need for] imposition of environmental compensation.
It shall also probe whether any study has been done as to how much sand will have to be removed for the purpose of meeting the requirement of free flow of water during monsoon before making the in-stream desilting, according to the order.
The State respondents have been told to file their independent responses as well regarding the circumstances under which the National Disaster Management Act was invoked for the purpose of desilting. They have to explain the circumstances that led them to take such an immediate action without following the necessary procedure before the next hearing date apart from coordinating with the committee in submitting the joint report.