Tribune News Service
Shimla, May 31
While expressing its unwillingness to allow constructions in the 17 green belts and heritage area, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed committee has strongly recommended “decongestion and depopulation” of the state capital to avoid any catastrophe.
The eight-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar finally submitted its report before the NGT on May 23. The matter is listed for hearing on July 12. The committee, assigned the task of assessing carrying capacity of Shimla hills by the NGT, has suggested decongestion of the town whether it involves demolition, relocation or reconstruction as there is a dire need to shift many of the facilities out of the town. As such any attempt by the government to allow construction in green areas might not be possible.
There is complete ban on fresh constructions in the green belts and heritage zones since December 2000. “Since it is evident that Shimla and its surrounding areas face great risk to life and property in case of earthquake or a big landslide, there is an urgent need to decongest Sanjauli, Dhalli, Totu, Lowe Bazaar,” the experts pointed out in their recommendations.
The exhaustive report has separate sections on natural hazards, exposure, vulnerability and disaster risk prepared by Kamal Kishore (National Disaster Management Authority) and Engineering Geological Contribution by Vikram Gupta (Wadia Institute of Geology) and Forests, Bio-diversity, Water Supply Systems, watershed management, Ecosystem Services, Climate Change and its impact and water sanctuaries.
The committee further observed that neither the government nor any institution should have the discretion to regularize any new buildings which violates the laid down guidelines. “The carrying capacity of Shimla has been far been exceeded and the authorities will have to take certain hard decisions in the right earnest and any further delay could be only at its own peril,” the report read.
The committee has recommended that new construction areas must be identified so as to prevent any further pressure in the high sinking prone area (Lakkar Bazaar, central school up to Auckland, up to Dhobighat, Krishna Nagar, Education Directoarte and the areas surrounding Clarks Hotel). Also, it felt that to avoid any further degradation to the heritage zone, no new construction must be allowed.
While taking a lenient view with regard to land owners who bought plots before 2000 when the 17 green belts (404 hectares) were carved, the committee felt that even allowing severely limited construction to such persons could unleash rampant construction activity in view of the poor status of implementation of building bye-laws. In fact, the committee has recommended that boundary of green areas should be extended to include adjacent forest in the vicinity of green areas.
The report has also come down heavily on the water supply system and pointed out that the catchment areas of the sources are already degraded and need to be rejuvenated. “It was reported to us that with a population of 2.34 lakh in Shimla Planning Area, people get supply for 90 minutes daily but people conveyed to us that in most areas water supply was once in three four days,” the members observed in the conclusion of the report.
- The committee further observed that the government should not have any discretion to regularize any new buildings which violates the laid down guidelines.
- "The carrying capacity of Shimla has been far been exceeded", the report read.
- The committee has recommended that new construction areas must be identified so as to prevent any further pressure in the high sinking prone area.
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