Varanasi: Someone has rightly said: “If you hurt nature, you are hurting yourself”. Industrialisation has affected the whole ecosystem drastically and it could be discerned by the way the climate is changing.
We often talk about protecting nature and following the green norms, but we also end up building fancy spaces at the cost of nature.
A lot has been said in different ways about protecting nature, but we do not seem to pay much attention.
One latest example is that of the ‘Tent City’ project in Varanasi, situated on the banks of the river Ganga with no thought to its flora and fauna.
Built on a 100-hectare area opposite the ghats of Varanasi near Ramnagar, the high-end facility can accommodate 200 people and is divided into three categories — Ganga Darshan Villas, premium tents and super deluxe tents.
According to the Central government, Varanasi has seen an uptick in tourism since the inauguration of Kashi Vishwanath Dham and the Tent City was conceptualised in order to cater to the influx of tourists.
The project has, however, garnered enough criticism by environmentalists as well as the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The NGT has sought a factual report from a panel over allegations that the Tent City project was flouting environmental norms.
It was hearing a petition alleging the project was detrimental to the flora and fauna and also resulted in untreated sewage going directly into the river.
“Such projects coming up on the riverbed/floodplains of rivers, tend to impair the vital ecological functions, such as ground water recharge, riverine biodiversity and wildlife protection done by the rivers and their floodplains,” lawyer and environmentalist, Akash Vashishtha said.
“The pristine-ness, purity and holiness of rivers, such as Ganga and Yamuna, can best be preserved by protecting and safeguarding them in the first place and not by tampering with their existence,” he added.
A bench comprising chairperson Justice A.K. Goel, judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A. Senthil Vel said the allegations, if true, depicted serious violations of environmental norms.
The bench sought a factual report from a seven-member joint committee of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Chief Wild Life Warden and Irrigation and Water Resource Department of Uttar Pradesh, state pollution control board (PCB) and the district magistrate of Varanasi.
“The governments, their functionaries and political parties must delve deep into the Hindu religious texts to know how they have been revered, worshipped and kept undisturbed for ages and life-cycles,” Vashishtha said.
The NGT bench said that the committee may ascertain the legality of the project, the impact of the project on the turtle wildlife sanctuary, and Ganga.
It said that the NMCG and the state pollution control board will jointly be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance and it will be open to the committee to conduct proceedings online or offline to undertake visits to the site and interact with concerned authorities and stakeholders.
It further directed the committee to meet within a week and submit its report to the tribunal within two months and listed the matter for further proceedings on May 26.
“The Central government must immediately issue the River Regulation Zone (RRZ) notification, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which had long been held by the Congress government over years and now by the ruling dispensation,” Vashishtha said.
The plants that grow along the banks of the Ganga and its tributaries play an important role in the diverse eco-systems the river supports. Not only do the plants rely on the Ganga for water, but they also play an important role in nutrient and water conservation, and their presence controls soil erosion along the banks.
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