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'What are you doing to the hills?' NGT to Himachal Government

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday rapped the Himachal Pradesh government and its tourism department on its plans to build a hotel in Kasauli, the cantonment town in Solan district. The three-member principal bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, questioned the state officials as to why permissions were granted in the fragile hill area that is also facing water scarcity.

NGT chairperson posed question to the officials after the additional solicitor general, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out that bore-wells were permitted in an area where water levels have dipped drastically. “What are you doing to the hills? The hill-area is ecologically sensitive. Even your affidavit points that out. Why are these five-six storey buildings being allowed?” justice Kumar said. The bench also issued notices to other hotel projects in the area on Wednesday.

The NGT bench made the observations while hearing a plea filed by the Society for Preservation of Kasauli and Its Environs, a non-profit organisation. The plea before the Tribunal has sought quashing of permissions that have been granted to build a 42-room hotel and allied facilities like a restaurant, conference hall and parking.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, Additional Solicitor General PS Patwalia argued that the Himachal Pollution Control Board did not take into deficiencies in the sewage system and did not study the groundwater situation either. The bench was informed that 2,000 litre water would be drawn out through the bore-well in an hour. The bore-well for the hotel was also sanctioned without prior permissions and besides that, 5-6 storeys and other constructions will be happen on just two acres of land, the ASG said.

According to the plea, the hotel project is allegedly in violation of the Kasauli revised development plan and claimed that the state tourism department did not carry out any Environment Impact assessment as is required under Kasauli Development Plan.