NGT directs stoppage of Baitarani river project work of sand filling, embankment, retention wall

The National Green Tribunal-Principal Bench has directed the Department of Water Resources not to execute work of sand filling, earth embankment and construction of RCC retaining wall in the river bed of river Baitarani for which tenders have been invited and no work order shall be issued in this regard till environmental clearance is obtained from the SEIAA, Odisha.

SEIAA counsel Gora Chand Roy Choudhury stated on instructions received from SEIAA, Odisha that no environmental clearance has been granted by SEIAA, Odisha with regard to the project regarding construction of RCC retaining wall in the embankment of river Baitarani including sand filling work in the river basin.

“That being the factual position, we are of the view that in the absence of the Environmental Clearance the construction of the RCC Retaining Wall and sand filling earth embankment cannot be executed by the State Government without obtaining Environmental Clearance from SEIAA,”

-the bench said.

According to the order, applicants, who are eight in numbers, are seeking a direction to the respondents restraining them from the sand filling work of the river basin of Baitarani on the South Bank at the place where river Baitarani bifurcates as Old Baitarani and New Baitarani in the Bhadrak District of Odisha.

The applicants had also filed a W.P. (C) No. 5632/2007 titled as Abhimanyu Sahoo and others Vs. State of Orissa in Orissa High Court and others, seeking a direction to the Respondents to stop the illegal and unauthorized lifting of sand from river bed of Baitarani in Mouza Kumbaria under Balipokhari Gram Panchayat and not to allow the plying of heavy vehicles on flood protective embankment National Highway No. 5 and RuralWorks Division Roads connecting from National Highway.

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It is stated that the writ petition was disposed of by the Division Bench of the High Court with a direction to the Collector, Bhadrak to look into the grievances of the petitioners taking into consideration the letters of the Executive Engineer, Jajpur, Irrigation Division, Jajpur, Bhadrak. 

A counter-affidavit has been filed by Respondent No 3, District Magistrate and Collector, Bhadrak District dated 10.08.2021. In this affidavit, it is stated that sand filling work of the river basin of Baitarani on the South bank at the place where river Baitarani bifurcates into old and new is being executed by the Jajpur Irrigation Division, Jajpur. 

It is stated for discharge of excess water from New Baitarani to Old Baitarani, one escape of 700 meters at the downstream in South bank exists to moderate the flood. Free flow of flood water will not be obstructed due to strengthening of gherry due to sand filling. There are four numbers of escapes at the downstream of New Baitarani on the North side for smooth discharge of flood water in order to protect the life and property of flood prone villages of Bhandarpokhari Block and Dhamnagar Block. 

District Magistrate & Collector, Bhadrak District, stated that the tender was invited for Rs 705.66 lakh under NABARD Assistance and the same is in the process of finalization. The Executive Engineer, Irrigation Division, Jajpur said this escape has been proposed for stabilization with RCC cut-off and stone pitching with all weather communication facility.

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Another affidavit filed by District Magistrate & Collector, Jajpur, wherein also the allegations of the original application have been denied and it is stated that the proposed construction of RCC Retaining Wall, neither affects the natural flow of flood water nor does it lead to degradation of the river banks.

The order stated that the proposed work is meant to strengthen the existing embankment constructed in 2016 for protection of more than 8000 inhabitants of Panasa Gram Panchayat and the project undertaken is on the island embankment road which neither affects nor hampers the flow of water in the river Baitarani.

The tribunal opined that the proposed sand filling work near the embankment of Baitarani river and also construction of the RCC Retaining Wall has been proposed and though tenders have been invited but the same is under process and nothing has been finalized and work orders have not been issued. 
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